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-mysterious man …
Chapter One- News Chapter Two- First Sight Chapter Three- Superiority Chapter Four- The Art Of Breaking Chapter Five- Oh Holy Night Chapter Six- Midnight Meeting Chapter Seven- Witch Chapter Eight- A New Friendship Chapter Nine- The Opera Chapter Ten- Dream Come True Chapter Eleven- Excitement Chapter Twelve- A Walk In The Park Chapter Thirteen- Night Time Swim Chapter Fourteen- Ballroom Dancing Chapter Fifteen- Pneumonia Chapter Sixteen- Getting Ready …
Chapter Seventeen-The Christmas Ball Chapter Eighteen-The Odyssey Chapter Nineteen-The Christmas concert Chapter Twenty-Home Sweet Home Chapter Twenty-one-The proposal Chapter Twenty-two-Sleep Over Chapter Twenty-three-Back To School Chapter Twenty-four-‘Malchance’ Chapter Twenty-five-A Trip to the Country Chapter Twenty-six- A Bad News Visitor Chapter Twenty-seven-Decisions, decisions Chapter Twenty-eight-Assembly Day Chapter Twenty-nine-Follow your heart …
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Chapter Thirty-Zombie Chapter Thirty-one-Asleep Again Chapter Thirty-two-Our Story …
Epilogue And then… …
Dedicated to my own Thomas Benet; May you remember me wherever you are.
••• I take a sip of the punch and then lay my cup down on the table. It was when I turned back around that I saw him. A tall, pale and dark haired man walking my way. And even though his black mask covered half his face, he still took my breath away. He comes closer still, never taking his gaze off me, and I fear I could not turn away from him if I tried. “Good evening Miss.” He says is a raspy, attractive voice. A greeting. That’s all. But even so, that greeting is what’s making my heart beat faster then ever before. •••
London England, November 1st, 1895
Dear Diary, I am ashamed to say that I am scared. No-more than scared, I am terrified. I received another letter from my parents today, wishing me well at school, wishing me to have an early season. To be the first of my piers to have a preferably rich man take fancy to me, and hopes that I shall be married off by spring. Right. I am barely seventeen, and though I do understand that it is now or never, for seventeen is the golden age, but I am most defiantly not ready. And lucky for me (or rather unlucky, depending how you look at it) the only boy I happen to know is my own older brother. The only problem is that I could shame my family by shying away from suitors and my duty. But what happens when your duty is not your destiny?...
●●● The great hall was filled with noise and laughter…and of course the usual girl gossip as is expected when attending an all girls private school. And do you know what we do here? I’ll tell you: we are to become “proper ladies”, and get married off. 8
Yes—Smith’s private school for girls: learn your manners (only gossip when the gossip victim is not within ear shot), learn to dance (embarrass yourself in front of dozens when you cannot remember which foot goes where when.), learn to sing and draw (both talents that are quite hard to acquire). All the things to appeal to your possible future husband. Charming introduction isn’t it? I sigh of usual boredom as I cross the head table where the teachers and the head mistress are seated, and I make my way to my seat between my dearest friends: Claire Milton and Elizabeth Preston. “Oh Mary, you have finally arrived! We have been waiting on you to say grace.” Victoria flashes a malicious smile as she says the comment made to embarrass me. I give her my most innocent smile as I make my reply“Yes, forgive me, but I have seen one of our poor maids, Anne, she was trying to reach the top of the portrait of the late miss’s Smith for dusting. I simply had to help her.” A lie. Fortunately the only one to see through it was Elizabeth. “How very Christian of you!” Elizabeth chides, “Victoria, you should perhaps learn to follow our dear Mary’s example instead of throwing her rude comments.” Elizabeth causes Victoria to blush and turn away. Both Elizabeth and Claire look at me with admiration in their eyes. The truth is that not very many girls here have the courage to stick up to Victoria and her sneaky and crude remarks. In fact, in the three years that I have been here, Elizabeth and I have been the only ones. This of course causes us to be outcasts in her group, which, trust me, is an honor not to be included in. Although, sometimes I think the reason Claire does not stick up to Victoria and her little followers, is because she secretly wishes to be invited in their circle. You see, Victoria may not have the luxury of being very beautiful (at least not as beautiful as Elizabeth), she does have the luxury of belonging to a very rich family, which makes her the envy of most girls here. Not to mention that she is being courted by a Mr. Thomas, whom I have never met myself, but he’s said to be quite handsome. His family is nowhere near as wealthy as hers, but they are wealthy none the less. And although Victoria can be a wretch at times, whom we would all think to marry a very rich man, it seems she loves Thomas even though he is not that rich. She is one in a million girls who gets to marry a man whom she falls in love with first. How very lucky for her.
I’m startled out of my thoughts by Miss’s Trenchfield, the head mistress, lovely principle of our school, telling us to gather our hands so that we may say grace. I put my head down in respect as she does so, and when she is finished, I wait for my breakfast to be served. Anne, our maid, is always in charge of our table comes over with two plates at a time serving us. “Oh Anne!” Victoria calls out to her. “Oh I just simply can’t believe how nice it was of our dear Mary here to help you with the dusting, I do hope you paid her a proper thank you.” Oh no! Anne’s old face looks confused. I am done for! “She did no such thing mum’. I don’t do me dustin’ right in the mornin’ afore everyone wakes.” Anne said before setting down her plate. I could feel the blood rising to my face in embarrassment. “Oh” said Victoria, “I must have misunderstood my source.” And then she shoots her smile my way. “Victoria, you are a beast of a girl!” Leave it to Elizabeth to come to my rescue. “And you are the friend of a liar.” Victoria says, never ceasing to hold her smile. Her friends (followers, whichever you prefer), Laura and Meggie laugh at Victoria’s victory over us. Yes, such charming girls we have here at Smith’s. If I had any choice in the matter of being sent here, I would have declined; social climbing and fancy parties filled with gossip is no life for me. And being sent to this school is practically setting me up for a life that I do not want in the least. I have always dreamed of traveling, I mean, don’t get me wrong, London is beautiful, but there is more than London. Other countries, other cultures, I want to see the rest of the world; but do you think my family cares about what I want. No-of course not. My older brother Gavan Thorn is married to a horrid, but rich, young lady named Marissa, and seeing how she is top class (an aristocrat), neither of them work, and live in a mansion on the other side of town. We are all so very proud of him. My younger sister Emily, is only nine, but my parents (and unreasonable grandmother) have high hopes for her yet. She has great beauty at such a young age, and will no doubt have no trouble marrying into a rich family. I am the only odd one out. Almost an outlander in my own family. I gulp my breakfast down in a most unlady-like manner, much to Vitoria and her posy’s disgust, to hurry and catch up with Claire and Elizabeth who’ve already left for our first class.
I walk into Miss Morgan’s choir class room. Claire and Elizabeth are standing with Miss Morgan, trying out the song that she’s to teach us today. Both Claire and Elizabeth share two of the loveliest voices here at Smith’s private Academy. I could only wish to have such a talent. Sadly, the sound of my singing voice much resembles the burl of a donkey. The other girls in our class enter not too long after me. Every single one of them (except Victoria, of course) stares at Claire and Elizabeth in awe, at their beautifully harmonized voices. Once they’ve finished, we all applaud and take our seats. “Thank you, Claire, Elizabeth. That was quite a lovely treat. But before we try it out with the rest of the class, I first have news to share.” Miss Morgan has a sort of mysterious smile that crosses her face. The other girls seem to notice as well, and a murmur of excitement invades the class room. “Alright, settle down.” Miss Morgan waits until all is silent before she shares her news. “I’ve received a letter yesterday from Briar Academy. They are hosting a Christmas concert in which we were invited to take part in as a choir.” The low murmurs erupt again, but are quickly silenced by a grunt from Miss Morgan. “I’ve not yet finished, and I would appreciate your silence while I am speaking!” Miss Morgan gives a stern look, and I fear she’s taken the breath out of every girl here, for the class room has become deathly silent. “I have sent the letter of acceptance to the offer this morning. It shall be a good experience and you shall all receive good council. Two young men from the Briar country club-ahem, two talented young men will be there at every practice to help teach and give guidance. “I shall divide you into two groups, one of the two men to help with each a different group. I shall be there at all times to teach and ensure discipline. Now, have you any questions?” Meggie, one of Victoria’s helpless followers, raises her hand. “Yes Miss Potter?” Meggie straightens herself before answering. “Is this project a requirement, or can we decline?” “Miss Potter, I’ve already told you that I have sent our letter of acceptance, and I have also decided that your progress during each practice and your performance at the concert shall count for ten marks on your grade.” Our teacher replies. Meggie does not say another word, but rather, she sits in her chair and pouts for the rest of the class. She has the luxury of looking just as lovely as she does this. Stupid girls.
• We pass through the day as routinely as always. After choir we have French, and then it is our lunch break. After lunch we have art, and then it is either dance, or a free period. Today was a free period. Most of the girls here at Smith’s will go to the spare room (or at least, that’s what I call it.) to do anything from reading, to drawing, or just talking and gossiping with friends. The others will most likely go to their own rooms, or their friends, to do whatever. My friends and I always go to the spare room, simply because it’s cozy…unlike the rest of the school. As soon as you walk in the enormous room, you can feel the warmth coming from the fireplace. The walls were a nice shade of beige, and there were brown columns all around, the same shade as the fireplace. There were even comfortable couches, chairs and tables set up around the room for anyone who needed them. It is a very convenient room. Claire, Elizabeth and I take our cups of tea (courtesy of Anne) and seat ourselves in the comfortable red chairs placed around a table. It’s been a rather long day, and I’m not the only one who thinks so, judging by the tired looks on Claire and Elizabeth’s faces. “She really makes me sick.” Elizabeth says, looking at someone near the fireplace. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who she is referring too. The one and only Victoria. “Pay her no mind, Elizabeth.” Claire says, obviously not wanting to deal with any more drama. But Elizabeth ignores her. “Look at her over there. She’s been bragging all day about the necklace her ‘dear Thomas’ has sent her as a birthday gift. You’d think she’d tire of bragging after a while-but no, her mouth just keeps on going.” Elizabeth lets out a sigh. “Victoria this, Victoria that. Must we really let her control our lives the way we let her?” I asked, annoyed of our conversations always having to revolve around Victoria. We’re probably giving her what she wants too, talking about her all the time. “I was just saying.” Elizabeth says, on the defense. “I’ve received a note from my mother today.” Claire says, offering a different topic in conversation. I gladly accept this. “What did it say?” I ask. “Jessie Tigers is visiting them for a week.” She smiles, “He’s asked about me.”
Jessie Tigers is a handsome man, who I’ve only met once, but apparently Claire is well acquainted with him. He’s been the only man she’s talked about for about a year now. This Jessie Tigers must be something special. “That’s great Claire!” Elizabeth joins in. And we all laugh merrily at Claire’s red face. She becomes so easily embarrassed, it’s endearing. “Do you mind if I join you?” A small voice says, and when I turn to look, I see it is Jessica Wilson, a girl in our class. “Sure, have a seat.” I say, pulling out the last chair for her to sit. I don’t really know her all that well. The only girls that I’ve really gotten to know are the two obvious. And Victoria and her friends, of course, but not by choice. “I don’t mean to intrude, it’s just that a necklace can only stay interesting for so long.” She says, rolling her eyes, and we all laugh. “So are you ladies excited for the concert?” She asks us. “Huh?” I ask, not taking a care to my rudeness. “The Christmas concert…that we are to participate in. We start practices tomorrow.” She says, and I only realize now what she is talking about. Miss Morgan’s announcement earlier. “Oh yes. I remember.” Claire says, before I get to. “I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to it.” I say dryly. Elizabeth gives me a look as if to say ‘mind your manners.’ But I don’t care, it’s the truth. I could do without a Christmas concert. “Well I am quite excited.” Elizabeth says. “We shall be having two young men from Briar Academy helping us at every practice. Mind you, if they are not handsome I shall quickly lose my excitement for the concert.” She finishes. It’s just like Elizabeth to say such a thing. But she is funny, in her own way, and of course, we all erupt in laughter once again. “Very true.” Jessica says, “I haven’t thought about that, but now that you mention it, I’ll be sure to keep a look out.” And we all laugh again. Truthfully, the chances of any of us getting involved with someone teaching us to sing, with a teacher always present is very unlikely. But I keep my negative comments to myself, and enjoy the rest of the evening. • It is night-time, and I’m walking in a vast forest. There is a pale stranger walking along beside me. He stops me abruptly, taking my hands in his. I look up to examine his face. He is incredibly handsome, but he looks pained. He is clearly worried and sad. I want to ask him what’s wrong, but when I open my mouth to speak, no words come out.
In a sudden movement that makes me jump, he jerks his head to the side. I follow his glance, and I see another man coming near, walking faster with each second. It’s odd though, I cannot see his face or any other of his features, the darkness of the night disguises him well. The man holding my hands looks panicked. He grabbed me and we break out into a run. We run through the forest for what seems like an eternity until we finally stop when we reach a cabin; and I can see that we lost the other stranger. He pushes me through the door- a little more roughly than necessary, but I know he is only trying to protect me. He stands in the doorway still holding that pained look in his eyes, and I know that he is leaving. I try to stop him. I don’t want him to leave, I need him. Even though I don’t know who this man is, I know he is supposed to mean something to me. He holds the doorknob, about to walk out. He suddenly turns around, cupping my face n his hands; and in one swift motion, he links his lips with mine—kissing me passionately until I cannot breathe. And when I open my eyes, he is gone. I am left alone in the cabin with no one and nothing except an empty hole in my chest. It was then that I woke up…panting and sweating. What an odd dream. I turn to look at my clock to check the time. 2:37. I sigh and turn back around. Time to go back to sleep. I close my eyes to rest, and my dream is quickly forgotten. •••
Dear diary, Miss Morgan revealed a new project for choir today. I’ve received no joy from this news. 1- I have no singing talents what so ever (forcing me to receive a pathetic mark on my grade). 2- Most practices will be after classes (taking away from what little spare time I have) 3- Our families are being sent invitations to come watch. ... In other words... HELP!
The next day, after dinner, when we find ourselves seated in church, unable to leave, for our lovely head mistress: Miss’s Trenchfield has an announcement to make. Hurray. Another announcement. “I am pleased to tell you all that we have been chosen this year to host the Christmas ball.”
Personally, this announcement has not made me warm of the heart, or set any life-long dream I’d have. What different would it make to have the Christmas ball here or somewhere else? The other girls, on the other hand, they act as if they were all dying of some terrible disease, and Miss’s Trenchfield has just found them a cure. Even Claire and Elizabeth glance my way with huge smiles on their faces. So we are hosting a ball at Christmas, something this else to rack our brains to be prepared for, I cannot wait! Ugh. • Unfortunately, even after Miss’s Trenchfield’s little announcement, we were still not able to leave the church; well, it was actually only my grade that wasn’t privileged to walk back to school yet. And do you know why? Because it is our first choir practice! We get to miss our tea in the sun room with all the other girls to sing! Jolly good, I must say! Miss Morgan separates us into the two groups that she has picked. Thank god I am with Elizabeth and Claire, sure maybe I have Laura in my group as well, but at least Victoria and Meggie are in the other one. It is actually a worst situation for Laura than me, seeing how she is separated from her beloved queen. Miss Morgan gives a speech on proper behavior for a lady, and our reputation here at Smith’s, we do not want to ruin it, and show the young men from Briar how talented we all are. I laugh at Elizabeth beside me making faces as our teacher speaks. “Miss Preston!” Miss Morgan shouts, almost knocking Elizabeth down but the cruel use of her last name. “This is exactly the kind of behavior I was speaking of!” She gives a stern look. “I am terribly sorry Miss Morgan, it shall not happen again.” Elizabeth says apologetically, though I can see the laugh she is trying to hold in. Victoria and her friends snicker behind us; surely they found Elizabeth getting caught amusing, I’d like to show them something amusing… “Ladies, may I introduce you to Mister Thomas Benet, and Mister Ben Kingston.” Miss Morgan announces as the two young men walk down the isle. Wow. Suddenly I’m beginning to warm up to this project. Two of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen stride towards us. Both of them tall and about the same age, which can’t be more than two years older than us girls, but they are very different from each other.
One with a sort of auburn colored hair with sparkling eyes, the other darker with black hair and dark brown eyes. I know it’s funny, but he has a sort of mysterious look on his face… When they pass through us, I notice the auburn haired man smile at both Victoria and Elizabeth. And suddenly I realize… Thomas Benet is the man who has been courting Victoria. I am clever enough to figure this out of course because of his name. ‘Thomas’ is a name known to everyone, for that is the first name of Victoria’s suitor. And Claire and I both know that he is also Elizabeth’s cousin-Elizabeth Preston, my best friend. The dark and mysterious man whom I know now to be Ben Kingston, does not make one sideway glance as he passes, adding to my distress. Thomas and Ben stand in front of us, no longer looking so serious. Quickly, Thomas sends a glance my way, with a dark look in his eyes. My stomach starts to churn. What does he mean by sending me that look? I have never even met the man and he is sending me the evil eye as if I just killed his brother. Maybe he knows who I am, maybe Victoria…ughhhh, VICTORIA! No WONDER Thomas seems to be taken aback by me, Victoria has been telling him horrible rumors about me no doubt. The nerve of that girl I tell you. I am not left in my misery for too long, for as soon as Thomas turns his ignorant face away form me, Ben turns in my group’s direction with a smile, his white teeth show brilliantly against his tanned skin. He’s perfect! How am I ever going to concentrate with him around? I can’t even breathe, let alone sing! Miss Morgan is now showing them which group they belong to; and all I can do is pray for her to send Ben my way. Besides, I’m sure Victoria would be ever so pleased to have her little ignorant boy in her group. God, they are made for each other, I don’t see how Elizabeth is related to him! Sadly Miss Morgan does not meet my request, and I am shattered to see that handsome auburn haired, evil eyed, ignorant man walking towards my group. He sends me another wicked stare, and I fear I might throw up. The one up side to this arrangement is that the other group has left to the other side of the wall, and we can no longer see or hear them--which means: No more Victoria! Although I fear that I have just met her match.
He starts by explaining to us what we will be doing during this practice. Apparently we shall be singing a bunch of different choruses to get the feel of the music. But before we start, he gives us a little preview. Now, normally I would be completely excited and awe-struck at the sound of a voice as beautiful as his was. But seeing how I cannot stand the man with any inch of my body, I do not enjoy one bit of it. When he is finished, the other girls give him a loud round of applause. I am the only one who doesn’t join in, and apparently he’s noticed. I can tell that he is insulted. I do not feel the least bit of remorse at my lack of manners towards Mister Benet. And clearly he does not care to try to be polite towards me either. “Alright ladies,” Thomas speaks up after the applause dies down, “Now that you know a little bit of what this is all about, we will start with our first chorus: Silent night. We all know this song, for it is a very famous Christmas carol. But though I know it well, I know that I will not be able to sing it well. “Silent night…” Thomas starts to sing. I mouth along, hoping it fools him into thinking that I am really singing along too. Luckily it works for a little while…on the unlucky side, it only works for a little while. It’s our third chorus and we are signing ‘O’ holy night’, when he comes over and puts his head near my mouth to hear me sing. “Alright, good job ladies.” He says, stopping everyone from signing any further. “Is there a problem Miss?” He asks me in front of everyone. And I can see he is amused by my embarrassment. “My throat is sore.” I say, not elaborating. He looks at me and smiles. “You don’t seem to have trouble speaking.” He says. His little comment seems to make the girls laugh. I sigh and promise to sing along during the next song, cursing Thomas the whole time. It’s only at the end of the practice that I get to see Ben again. He looks just as stunning as when he walked in. Although he doesn’t seem to be really very happy. “He sure is something, eh?” Jessica says, standing beside me. “Oh yeah.” I say, still staring at him idiotically. “Thomas too…too bad he’s taken, Victoria is quite a lucky girl. He’s probably one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen.” She chides, turning her gaze to Thomas, causing me to follow. “Really,” I say, “I haven’t noticed.” “Are you kidding?” She asks incredulous. I shrug my shoulders and join Elizabeth and Claire. They too seem to be talking about the
men. Elizabeth of course, avoiding talking about Thomas being handsome, for he is her cousin. “I wonder if he would ever take a fancy to one of us.” Claire states out loud. It is very clear that she is talking about Ben, for Thomas is taken. Right after Claire says this; Ben Kingston passes us by, giving us a little smile before he walks out the door. “Oh My God!” Elizabeth says, “Did you see that?” I don’t even have to answer, of course I did…we all did. It’s hard not to notice a nice smile like that. I know that I shall have trouble sleeping again tonight, I think to myself, walking out of the church. Only not because of a nightmare this time. Because of Ben. I continue my train of thought while closing the door behind me… but not before I see Thomas again, glaring at me… •••
Dear diary, I have met the devil. His name is Thomas Benet, and you may not be surprised to learn that he is well acquainted with the *sweet* (cough, cough) Victoria. I fear I shall have to fake my sickness tonight so that I do not have to go to that cursed choir practice, so that I do not have to deal with that cold stare on his good for nothing face. Even though I do wish to see Ben again, it will not do to have an impertinent stranger humiliate me in front of my piers. Therefore I shall stay in tonight and come up with a plan to be ride of my problem. A.k.a−Thomas!
Madame Bouchard, my French class teacher is now writing French phrases on the board and randomly asking someone in the class to read it out loud. Speaking French has become one of my specialties since my aunt moved back from France, and stayed with us for six months last year. And now I am top of this class. I can hear Claire psstt-ing me from behind my desk, I know she means to ask me why I didn’t show up to choir yesterday. And I was going to tell her and Elizabeth, just not last night when I had to fake sleeping when Claire came in (my room mate), while thinking of a fit solution for my Thomas problem. And after hours of self torture, it came down to one-beating him at his own game. I turn around to see a piece of paper between Claire’s figures meant for me. As subtly as I can, I reach for the paper and place it inside my French book. I wait until Madame Bouchard has turned her back on me, asking another one of her victims to read the chalkboard. I place the book upwards so that no one in front of me so that no one can see me open the note.
‘Where were you last night?!’
I read Claire’s perfect handwriting on the paper. I turn the paper over to write my response― “Madame! Marry is passing notes!” Bloody hell! At the brutal sound of Victoria’s voice, I slip the note through the pages in my book. Claire will simply have to wait until lunch to hear my story. Madame Bouchard makes her way over to me. “Mademoiselle Thorn!” Madame Bouchard states my name in French. “You are not paying attention to my French lesson, hmm?” She asks in a heavy French accent. “Non, Madame Bouchard, “ I answer with flawless French, “Je m’excuse, mais je crois que Victoria s’est trompé. ″ Madame Bouchard looks impressed with my answer, and does not press me any further. And soon enough, we are dismissed from class and getting ready to eat our lunch. • In the great hall, where we eat all our meals, I sit with Elizabeth and Claire, as always, and listen to them pester me, trying to get the story of my disappearance last night. Of course I do not tell them anything, I do not even utter a word, and instead, I eat my lunch (properly this time, although still attempting 21
a faster speed). Once I am finished, I retreat myself to the fields outside, in the back of Smith’s private school, and wait for Elizabeth and Claire to follow me out. Sure enough, they did. I am sitting down, leaning against a tree when I see my two best friends skipping along, on their way to harass me once again. Only this time, I shall not keep them in suspense. “Marry, you wicked girl, what do you think you’re doing keeping secrets from us!” Claire says teasingly as she and Elizabeth both take a seat on each side of me. “I am not keeping secrets,” I reply, “I am simply waiting for the moment where I do not have nosy girls listening in on our conversation!” The two girls give a look that says: Ohhhh, then wait for me to explain my sudden sickness last night. “All right, all right.” I say, and I see their smiles already. “Now, Elizabeth, I know that Thomas is your cousin, but―” “Fear not, dear Mary, we are cousins, not friends.” Elizabeth reassures me. “Right then,” I resume my story, “I told Miss Morgan that I had a dreadful headache, and I feared I could not make it to choir practice, so she sent me to bed with some tea and a hot cloth. I felt bad deceiving her like that, but what’s done is done. Anyhow, it all had to do with our first practice the night before. When Thomas was assigned to our group, he kept giving me cold stares, like he wanted to kill me. I did not know what brought on his behavior, but I assume Victoria had a part in it. Even if no one else noticed, I was humiliated, and decided to skip the nest practice to clear my head.” I finish with a deep breath and Elizabeth says, “A cold look? Like how?” I do my best to give them an example, and I see it works at their exaggerated shivers. “Oh my Mary, what have to done to the poor boy?!” Claire chides. Elizabeth and I both laugh at my own expense. “You’ve nothing to fear, Mary,” Elizabeth tell me, “he’s not taken a nice interest in anyone but Laura, Victoria’s wretched friend. Can you imagine? Ignoring everyone, even his own cousin! For his dear Victoria’s friend!” I wait for Elizabeth to catch her breath. I can see that she is not really that insulted, but her exaggeration make me laugh. Claire embraces me in her arms and forces me to stand up. “Come tonight Mary.” She pleads. Elizabeth stands secondly, “Yes,” she says. “We shall show him who is superior, and that he cannot mess with our Mary!”
I love my friends, they always know how to make me feel better, and face my fears. We sit quietly for a little while, listening to the wind, the only sound that we can hear since we are too far away from the school. It is so peaceful and relaxing that I could stay here all day. Lying here in the grass with my two best friends, life is good. “I’m excited for the ball.” Claire says breaking the silence. I am shocked when she says this. Claire never gets excited about social events…in fact, she does her best to avoid them. The fact that she says she’s excited about a ball, makes my think that she is keeping something from us. “Claire,” Elizabeth says, “since when do you get excited about such things?” She asks her. “I get excited for stuff like this all the time.” Claire says on the defense. It is the worse lie I’ve ever heard anyone make. “You know you are not a very good liar Claire.” I say. “In fact, you are not a good liar at all.” She playfully hits me in the arm when I say this. Obviously she is not going to give in, that much is clear. Elizabeth and I shall have to wait until later on to know what she’s got up her sleeve. This is going to drive me crazy! You’re being very ruse Claire, “Elizabeth says, clearly hurt by Claire keeping secrets from us. I cannot say that I blame her one bit for being upset over the matter. “Eli…I’m not keeping secrets,” Claire pleads, “Honest, I’m excited for a ball. Big deal, there’s nothing to it.” She says. I hope Elizabeth gives it up. I hate it when we fight. Besides, it’s such a beautiful day; I don’t want to waste time arguing. “Oh alright.” Elizabeth says, after letting out a big sigh.” I believe you Claire.” Claire jumps up and gives her a hug, happy not to have to argue with Elizabeth…because trust me, and it’s not fun quarreling with Elizabeth. Not at all. “Come then,” I say to them, “We shan’t be late for art, Miss Donalie says she has a surprise for us!” We all squeal in excitement, and run through the field back to our school, just in time for class. •••
4The art of breaking
Dear diary, Remind me toa) Send a letter back home for more art supplies. b) Give Thomas a taste of his own medicine c) Thank my friends for being entirely wonderful! Well, I better start painting now before Miss Donalie suspects something...
Miss Donalie takes us out to the gardens for inspiration. Most girls in our class were disappointed that this was our big surprise. I on the other hand, was utterly thrilled! 24
The gardens here at Smith’s are most impressive― filled with colorful flowers and majestic statues and fountains. Smith’s is indeed a beautiful school. But the building itself does not compare to its surroundings. Miss Donalie has taken the liberty to have benches placed out in the garden, one for each girl. We are, of course, aloud to move them to any place in the garden that we please. I placed my own bench in the front of, what I believe, is the most magnificent scene in the gardens. I set up my easel and admired my scenery. A gorgeous pond with a fountain in the middle, with glorious flowers and other plants entangled through and all around. It was absolutely beautiful. I quickly scribbled in my diary before I took out my paints. Truthfully, art was one of my few talents-Art and speaking French. But what was I supposed to accomplish with that? I’ll tell you; NOTHING― nothing, unless I wish to move to France and become a poor French artist and live pitifully alone for the rest of my life. I quickly change my thoughts before I go into a severe depression, and focus my energy on my painting. I use my brush to make slow, colorful strides against my canvas. I am almost half finished when I stop. My painting looks almost exactly like my scene. The only think missing is the real beauty in it. I mean, how does one capture actual beauty in a painting? Or in anything that isn’t real for that matter? I remember once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother had taken me to an art exhibit, here in London (for this is where I’ve always lived.) I cannot remember the name of the artist whose exhibit we were to see, but I know he or she was very talented. My grandmother walked me through the nig room filled with brilliant paintings. At each one she’d stop and give me her analysis on the painting in front of us; trying to teach me something about art in words that I could not understand. Finally, we reached the back of the room and the last painting. It was huge; it nearly took up the whole wall. In the painting, the earth was at its worst (like an apocalypse). There was a woman kneeling on the earth and she was looking up at an angel. The angel was the best part of the painting. He was reaching his hand toward the woman, with an unmistakable pain in his eyes. Even my grandmother was speechless.
I tore my eyes away form the vivid painting to read the caption underneath it. “The art of breaking” Such a sad name for such beauty, I thought then to myself. For that’s what the painting was: distressed and beautiful. The angels pain was beautiful…the artist must have known real pain and real beauty to have created such a masterpiece. “You are making good progress Miss Thorn.” I am startled from my memories at the sound of miss Donalie’s voice beside me. “Th-thank you, miss.” I managed to stutter, still trying to escape from my daze. “Keep up the good work.” Miss Donalie says before walking off. I hurry along with my painting until it is finished. I stop and stare. It really is quite good, many would admire it. But it is still not beautiful. For I have never known true beauty. Class is almost over when our teacher calls us back to the classroom so that we can present our paintings. We all return to our classroom cheerful and happy to have been outside for a while. Miss Donalie calls out the names in no specific order to step up in front of the class and show our canvases. Elizabeth Preston was first. On her canvas was a painting of one of the statues; no background or detail-just the statue. Although it was simple, it was still lovely. A round of applause erupts for Elizabeth, and no one claps louder than me and Claire. Victoria Brooks is next. Her painting over looks the side of Smith’s private school with the garden in front of it. And as much as I hate to admit it, it was pretty good. Another applause for Victoria. Laura Markham is next with a most unremarkable painting that wasn’t even finished. But the class never fails to give their applause out of respect. “Mary Thorn!” I jump up at the sound of my name being called. I slowly walk up to the front of the class, my face never ceasing to turn red of embarrassment. I hold it up and hear the girls gasp in delight, and I fear my face has turned a deeper shade of scarlet.
I hear Victoria let out a loud “pffftt” as if it was the most pathetic painting she’s ever seen, before the class applauds and I return to my seat. Next, Claire Milton, Meggie Potter, Beth Reynolds, Jessica Wilson and Chelsea Turner all take their turns and display their somewhat forgettable paintings. In the end, Miss Donalie seemed very pleased with the outcome and dismissed us from class with a broad smile showing on her face. ● It is far past our bed time when Claire and I hear a knock at the door. Claire is not quite as asleep as I am, so she’s the one to get up and open it. “What? What is it?” Claire asked Elizabeth. Elizabeth just walks right in and sits on my bed, bouncing up and down in excitement. It’s too late for this. I give an unattractive loud groan, hoping Elizabeth will take the hint and stop jumping. “Oh, don’t be such a ninny, Mary.” Elizabeth says rudely, “I’ve come here to invite you and Claire to our room for a party.” This has to be some sort of joke. It may be only eleven thirty, but I’m in no mood for one of Elizabeth’s crazy ideas. Sure, she’s fun to be around when I’m up…but seeing how I am still not fully conscious, I do not wish to take part in any sort of ‘party’. Besides, in a dorm room in a boarding school for girls, where you learn how to sing, draw and act pretty; a party here can hardly be worth the trouble. “I’m not in the mood.” I say, stuffing my face in my pillow. Elizabeth pulls it from under my face and throws it to the floor. “It’s about time we’ve had a bit of fun.” Elizabeth pouts. “We’ll have fun tomorrow Eli, for now just go back to your room.” Claire says, coming to my rescue. While I am very aware of the fact that both Claire and I can argue with Elizabeth until we are both blue in the face….Elizabeth will not leave us alone until she gets her way. Deep down, I will always know that arguing with Elizabeth gets me nowhere but angry. So I get up, change into some clothes, and stand at the door while the other two look at me confused. “We don’t want to be late for the party, do we?” Apparently the party will only consist of four girls. Me, Claire, Elizabeth and Jessica. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a real wild night. I roll my eyes as I take a seat on the floor. “What are we going to do?” Claire asks, yawning.
“We’re going to have a bit of unsupervised fun.” Jessica says, sounding excited. I think rooming with Elizabeth has gone to her head. After Jessica says this, Elizabeth walks to her closet and pulls out a big brown bottle. I do not need to ask to know what it is. “Elizabeth, you can’t be serious. If we get caught, we’d be expelled!” I yell out in horror. “We will get caught if you keep yelling like that.” She spits. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan on staying on school grounds.” “We never talked about that…” Jessica objects. “Where do you think you’re going to go?” Claire asks, intelligibly seeing the erroneous of it all. “We.” She states proudly. “To town. It’s not a far walk. Nor dangerous in the least.” “It is when you’re drunk.” I point out. Jessica takes the bottle from Elizabeth’s hand, and takes a drink. “I’m in.” She says, after making a face and whipping her mouth.” Oh Lord, what am I getting myself into? “Me too.” I sigh. “Yay!’ Elizabeth jumps up and hugs me. “Don’t even try to say otherwise, Claire. We all know you’re coming too.” But Claire doesn’t say anything, she just keeps her head down and follows us out the door. Not wanting to risk getting caught going back to our rooms to get our coats, Jessica and Elizabeth lend one to Claire and I. Lucky for us, they were winter coats. I would not have agreed to come otherwise. It doesn’t take us long to sneak out of the school…that part was easy. The tricky part will be walking around in public with no escort or anyone to protect us, while holding a bottle of Gin. I’ve never tasted any other alcohol than wine (As any other lady my age), and even then, it had only been a glass, two on special occasions. So when I first took a sip of that I thought I was going to throw up. I don’t even understand why people drink it. Well, I didn’t, anyway. Now with the warm and fuzzy feeling in my head, I’m beginning to understand a little. It didn’t take long to get me feeling like this, like I’m in a dream. I don’t care about anyone or anything: I just want to enjoy myself no matter the consequence…and that’s a scary thought. Though I do not care at the moment. The other girls seem to be in the same state as I am. Except for Claire, she seems to be far, far worse: laughing at everyone and everything. I couldn’t say one word right now without her bursting into laughter. “Where shall we go ladies?” Elizabeth asks, slurring her words a little bit, and Claire laughs. Of course Claire laughs. “To…to the…ha-ha, I don’t remember what I was going to say!” Claire starts laughing again.
“Okay, no more for Claire,” Jessica says, “I think we should go inside there!” She says, pointing to an old book store. It looks rather creepy, and if I was sober, I probably wouldn’t have argued with them on this one. But seeing how I’m not, and have no control over myself or my actions what so ever, I follow in silently. I was right, of course. The inside of the old book store matches the outside. To put it plainly…it was old and scary. I also find it odd that they would be open at such a late hour. “Good evening ladies.” An old lady says from across the counter. “How may I help you?” She asks. “Who is it?” A loud male voice calls from behind the curtain. “A couple of young ladies.” She calls back. The man emerges from behind the curtain to come out and take a look at us. “A little late to be out alone ladies?” He says to us sternly. “where’s your parents?” He asks. “We don’t belong to anyone.” Elizabeth steps up to say. The man’s eyes move down to the bottle in her hand. “What have you got there, hmm?” He lifts it up. “Have you ladies been drinking spirits? No wonder your lost. I’m calling the police.” He says, turning his back on us walking through the curtain again. Elizabeth’s really done it now. “Let’s go!” I yell to them. Clearly I’m the only one with any sense left in me. I nearly had to drag them all out. “Hey!” The man calls, following behind. “STOP! The police are coming, they’ll take you home!” I’m running my fastest, with the three other girls on my tail, and the old man on theirs. He can’t possibly keep up for much longer. I’m running through random streets, looking behind me all the time to make sure I haven’t lost anyone…But I soon give up, and look straight ahead the whole time, focusing on confusing the old man. “Mary, stop. We lost him.” Jessica says, panting. “Thank God.” Claire says. We all drop to the ground, lying on our backs, exhausted; except for Elizabeth. “I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not, but we’re lost.” She says, and a sudden realization comes to me. She’s right. We are lost. How in the Lords name are we going to find our way back? I’d been running randomly around, not taking a care to observe my surroundings. I’ll never remember the way back, and I doubt the others will either. Claire starts crying. Obviously her buzz hasn’t worn off much yet. “It’s okay Claire,” I soothe her; “We’ll be back at Smith’s in no time.” I say, and she hugs me. I feel bad lying to her, for I doubt we’ll be back at school anytime soon, but by tomorrow she won’t tell the difference.
“So where are we going to go?” Jessica asks. “I suppose the only way we’ll have a chance of getting back is trying to remember the way we came.” Elizabeth says, for once making sense. We all agree on Elizabeth’s plan, of course, no one could come up with a better idea. We do our best to remember the way back, though I’m positive no one can tell if we are really on the right track. There were many arguments along the way, if someone thought we should go ahead, another one though we should turn right, it always came down to a vote. If it was a tie, we would work out a compromise. All in all, we really weren’t getting anywhere, that is, until we met Robert. We just finished turning a creepy dark ally when we see a taxi. In other words, Robert with a carriage. Elizabeth, being the bravest one here, goes up to him first. “Do you know where Smith’s private school for young ladies is?” She asks him. “Aye, I know where it is. Ye need a lift ladies?” He asks us. “Yes, we do. But we’ve no money with us.” Elizabeth replies, and I’m tensing myself for the taxi driver to give us a flat out ‘NO!’, but he doesn’t. “Ye’ll need some sort o’ payment lassie.” He says. “'Ow bout’ a nice little peck on the cheek eh?” This is absurd, I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before. Of course Elizabeth is going to decline, how stupid does he think she is? “Okay.” Elizabeth says, and we all gasp in horror. “Elizabeth, are you still drunk? Come on, we’ll find another way.” I say, pulling her arm. “I think not!” She growls, “He’s willing to take us home for a peck on the cheek. Hardly a fair payment for him.” And with that, the man leans over and she gives a little kiss on his greasy cheek. Disgusting. But she did it. And now we have a free ride home. Sometimes I have no choice but to love Elizabeth for being so rebellious. The cab driver tells us his name is Robert, he also told us much more useless information about himself that I will forget by the time I reach my bed. But he was nice. No tricks or anything involved in our free ride home. He’s a respectable man who sticks to his word. A man to be admired. When we finally sneak back in our room, we are exhausted. I do not even bother to check the time, for it will only depress me. Two things I am sure of at the moment. One: I shall be more tired tomorrow than I’ve ever been.
Two: I am never drinking spirits again! •••
5Oh Holy Night
Dear diary, Wish me luck, for I am about to return to the belly of the beast, yes I am going back to choir practice and face that wretched boy Thomas and teach him a little something about manners. Luckily I am not to do it alone, Claire and Elizabeth are going to help me out, if ever I need saving. Alright, maybe I am making a little bit of a bigger deal out of this than it is. But I am not
going to deal with little petty boys, not to mention Victoria, before Christmas, We’ve less than two months to get ready, and it is stressful. Well, I shall write soon! Wish me luck.
It is already dark out when our class makes our way to the church on the other side of Smith’s. Claire, Elizabeth and I walk side by side, arms linked to avoid any of us being scared. “You know, it really is quite nice out here at night.” Claire makes the statement, and we all nod in approval. Although I won’t admit being out here in the dark still frightens me. “I have a brilliant idea!’ Elizabeth jumps up and looks at us. “Oh no, not another one of your brilliant ideas Elizabeth!” I warn her. “yeah,” Claire jumps in, “We could have got into a lot of trouble the last time you had a brilliant idea!” Elizabeth looks hurt, but she shakes it off and continues. “I say,” she starts, “We sneak out tonight and have a lovely picnic in the gardens…imagine how lovely it looks at night!” she says dreamily. I can see Claire’s mouth about to let out a big no. And as much as mine would like to do the same, a trip to the gardens in the middle of the night sounds exciting. “I’m in!” I say enthusiastically. Claire looks at me in horror, but I know she’ll come. She lets out a huge sigh, and then finally says: “me too.” Elizabeth jumps in delight, and Miss Morgan tells her to settle down, for we are now entering the church, where I will have to face Thomas…my heart has never beaten so fast. We walk in, and I see both Thomas and Ben waiting for us. Ben. I’d forgotten about him. Suddenly my revenge for Thomas doesn’t peek interest in me anymore. I’ve only eyes for him. Why the bloody hell did my group have to get stuck with Thomas when we could have had him! We all walk up to the front and my heart stops. I could swear that Ben just smiled at me. I slowly turn my gaze away to Thomas, scared that he might be giving me that death stare, but he isn’t. He’s looking at me in a most curios way…I should tell him to turn around and leave me alone, the brownnoser!
“Alright everyone, you know your groups, get going.” Miss Morgan yells. Sadly Ben and his group leave the room and I am left with Thomas and my friends, thank goodness for them. “Good evening ladies, the song we shall be rehearsing today is ‘oh holy night’, which I am certain that you are all familiar with.” Thomas says in his deep voice. We all nod knowingly, and take our places. Thomas starts singing and gestures for us to jump in. “Oh holy night…” “Anything odd yet Mary?” Elizabeth whispers in my ear. “It is the night of our dear savior’s birth…” “No.” I whisper back. “STOP!” Thomas shouts. He yelled it quite rudely if you ask me. The room is deathly silent. “I see some of you have not been following. Am I correct in thinking that this concert shall count for your final grade?” Thomas asks, and once again we all nod sheepishly. “Right,” he continues, “Now, if there are any who wish to continue disturbing our progress and want to leave, you know where the door is.” He says, and then stares right at me. I fear I might be sick. The only thing that I am thankful for at this moment is that Victoria is not here to witness this. I do not say anything; I simply stare back, with my own evil eye. Good job Mary; show him you’re not to be pushed around! Thomas seems taken aback by my reaction then turns away. I smile at my victory, Claire and Elizabeth see this, and they smile too. “We shall try again.” Thomas says, “Without interruptions.” He says this so sternly, it takes all I have to suppress a giggle. Luckily I have a great deal of self-control and do not make a fool out of myself a second time. The girls start singing and I follow along like a good little school girl. “Oh holy night...” • Once Thomas and Miss Morgan think we’ve got it down, Miss Morgan makes her way to the other group to check their progress. The girls in my group grab their coats, expecting to leave at Miss Morgan’s return with the other group. I spot Thomas making his way through the girls, talking to each of them. Lucky for me he didn’t have any more to prove to me since his last freak out. No evil eye, no blaming.
I let out a sigh of relief. “You are Miss Mary Thorn, am I correct?” I spin around at the sound of his voice, and find myself staring at Thomas Benet. My heart beat quickens and my stomach feels queasy. Is he here to warn me to behave and get me in trouble? “What business is it of yours?” I snap, responding quite cleverly if you ask me. “I didn’t mean to offend you lady, I was simply wondering.” He lets out a small cough before continuing, “As you know, there is not a practice scheduled for tomorrow, but I’ve taken the liberty to invite some of the girls to come for catching up and extra coaching. Your teacher thinks it is a splendid idea. I was just letting you know in case you were interested.” He lets out a deep breath. “We shall see.” I say sternly, and he smiles. What is wrong with him? He must have a multiple personality disorder. “Well,” he says, “have a good night, miss-ugh?” “Miss Mary Thorn.” I say, and then he turns to walk away. Miss Morgan walks in soon after, followed by Ben Kingston and his group. I see Victoria smiling at Thomas. She sees me staring and casts me an evil look. I quickly turn to Claire and Elizabeth beside me. “God, she is a witch, isn’t she?” Elizabeth says, looking at Victoria. Claire and I nod in agreement. We’re about to turn and leave when Ben comes over. Heavens above he’s handsome. I can feel the blood rushing to my face, god, what is wrong with me? Ben is going to think I’m a complete fool if I behave this way every time he comes near. He looks at Claire and Elizabeth. “Good evening ladies.” He says while tipping his hat. Then he turns to me. “Good evening Miss Thorn.” He says while smiling. What? Did he just say my name? Oh no, say something witty Mary, come on then, charm him. “Oh uh, good evening sir.” I say with a foolish grin on my face. Shoot me now. I watch him walk out the church, and I see Claire and Elizabeth looking at me with shocked faces from the corner of my eye. I say nothing, torturing them the whole way back to Smith’s. Once we reach our school, they push me into a corner. “Come then Mary, what was that about?” Claire asks.
The truth is, I don’t even know. But I don’t say so, instead I reply“Tonight, at midnight, we shall meet in the gardens, and then we shall talk.” Claire seems sad to have to wait so long; Elizabeth just looks excited at the mention of our secret meeting tonight. We leave for our rooms, and wait for midnight’s moon. •••
Dear diary, Ben Kingston knows my name! I almost fainted when he came over today, how pathetic am I? Right, no time to think about that, I need to work a plan. The girls and I are to meet in the gardens tonight at midnight; together we shall find a way to help Ben ask me to our Christmas ball.
I can hardly wait, I hope he is interested. He does know my name, and I am not even in his group. That counts for something, right? Oh, I hope so. I have never been this stupid over a man before, in fact, I have never shown any interest in any man. Ben is special, and I hope it all ends well. I fear I must leave you; I must fake my sleeping in case Miss’s Trenchfield comes to check in. Good night!
When I put down my book and look at the clock through the candle light, I see it is 11:56. Time to go. I blow out my candle, and step to Claire’s bed beside me. Great, she’s asleep. “Claire!” I whisper, and she doesn’t move. I try to shake her a bit and she wakes with a start. “Bloody hell!” I yell. “You frightened me.” I say to Claire. “Sorry Mary, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” She apologizes. “It’s okay, but we’ve got to leave now or Elizabeth shall think we are not coming.” We leave right away, sneaking down the dark halls until we reach the front door. I become even more frightened when I hear footsteps approaching. Claire seems to have heard it too, for she looks at me in panic with wide eyes. We see a shadow on the wall, coming closer with every breath. “What if it is Miss’s Trenchfield?” Claire whispers in panic, “she will never forgive us this time!” “Don’t worry.” I say, although I have no plan. If it is Miss’s Trenchfield, we shall be found out, and I have no excuse for me and my friend sneaking out of our room. I mean, what are the chances that we are both sleep walking at the same time. I tell you, it’s not very likely. “What are you doing here?” A voice whispers. “Ahhh!” Claire lets out a scream and I could slap her for it. For it is Elizabeth standing in front of us. “Oi, oo’ goes there?” That however, was not.
We are all panicking, we cannot open the door and run outside, she’d just follow. Suddenly, Elizabeth grabs both me and Claire and hides with us behind one of the big statues. I can scarcely breathe. I sneak a peek through one of the arms of the statue to see who it is. When I look, I see our maid, Anne, searching the entrance. Lucky for us, it doesn’t take her long to see that no one is there, and she soon retreats back to her room. “She’s gone,” I say, “Let’s go!” Claire grabs my arm. “We’re still going?” she asks horrified at the thought. “But of course!” Elizabeth says with a smile. And I have never been more excited in my life. We open the door softly, and wiggle our way through, one by one. Once we’re out, we run to the left side of the school to the gardens. Once we reach our destination, my breath stops. However impressive the gardens were in day light, they are far more impressive at night. Every thing is aglow. There are tiny light every where, not to mention lamp posts. It is the most beautiful sight that I have ever witnessed. “Wow.” Elizabeth says. I nod in agreement, though she cannot see me. I turn to Claire and watch her and she stands open mouthed at the sight stretching out before our eyes. I soon snap out of my trance and grab the girls and we take our seats on a bench. “Who knew Smith’s school was this beautiful?” Elizabeth says dreamily. “Of course it only shows its true beauty at night.” I say dryly. “I did not sneak out in the middle of the night to talk of Smith’s unknown beauty, Mary, I think you have a story you need to share.” Claire says. “Really, I don’t.” I say. “Then what was ‘good evening Miss Thorn’,” Elizabeth stands as she mocks Ben, “how would he know only your name!” “Honestly, I’ve no clue how he came to know my name. It is rather exciting though.” I can barely contain my smile. “Rather exciting?” Elizabeth chides, “That’s quite an understatement. Do you know what this means Mary? It means he’s been asking people about you!” My smile widens, for I know she had to be right. “You really think so?” I ask in all innocence. “How else would he come to know your name?” Claire jumps in.
“Do you think he might ask me to the Christmas ball?” I ask hopefully. Elizabeth takes my hand and smiles, “I really don’t see why not.” She says. And with that she has made my night. “I don’t suppose you two are going to the choir practice tomorrow that Thomas id holding. I mean, you guys are top of the group. Of both groups actually.” The two girls look at each other. “Well,” Elizabeth says, “we weren’t going to, but if you are, then we shall also make an appearance.” She says, and then Claire nods. “THANK YOU!” I say. “I wasn’t going to go if I was alone, especially with that wretched Thomas, but I do need to catch up. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” We all laugh at my expense. And I’ll admit, I can be rather dramatic, but Elizabeth (even if she dare not admit it) is exactly the same. “So your dilemma with Mister Benet still stands?” Elizabeth asks. I do not know what to say without insulting her, for Thomas is after all her cousin. “You can be honest.” She says with a smile, as if reading my mind. “Well,” I start, “to be honest, I don’t know if the dilemma still stands. He was looking at me in a most curios way today. Then he did blame me for disrupting the rehearsal. But afterwards, he was a perfect gentleman. I do not know what to make of him.” Elizabeth does not answer, she only nods. Claire answers instead: “It looks like he feels bad for mistreating you.” She says. “But to be fair, you were disrupting the rehearsal.” “You know I was not the only one talking Miss Claire Milton.” I say, and we all erupt in laughter again. We laugh even harder when Claire lets out a big snort, sounding much like a pig. Claire ‘shhhhs’ us, and I know that she is still afraid that we shall all be caught sneaking out here in the gardens, in the middle of the night. I don’t know why she is scared all the time. There must be some reason for it. I mean first you have Elizabeth, who is not scared of anything; you have me, the one longing for adventure, yet scared at time. And finally we have Claire…scared of my finger! We are such an odd bunch, but in a perfect way…we all belong together like sisters. “I’m a little excited too.” Elizabeth says suddenly. And Neither Claire, nor I know what she’s talking about. “For what?” I ask. “The ball. Claire said earlier today that she was excited for our ball. Well, I am too.” She says smiling.
“That’s not hard to believe,” Claire says, “You practically live for that stuff.” “Do not!” Elizabeth shouts back. And we all start laughing again… it’s been forever since I’ve laughed this much with my friends. “Shhh!” Elizabeth says, “Can you hear that?” We all stop to listen. There is some sound coming from the stables. “Let’s go.” I say, and Claire and Elizabeth both follow me. As we near them, the sound becomes clearer, and I can tell that it is laughter, or rather a giggle. I know that whatever it is is none of my business, but my curiosity gets the best of me, so I open the stable door. Claire and Elizabeth let out a gasp in surprise, and lucky for us, Meggie and the stable boy didn’t hear it. I quickly close the crack in the door to the way it was and run back to the garden with Claire and Elizabeth trialing behind me. I cannot believe what I just saw, and by the looks of it, neither can Claire and Elizabeth. The too good for everyone, Miss Meggie Potter, the little rich princess, Best friend to Victoria Brooks, the wicked witch of the west. Caught in the stables with the stable boy, doing most unlady like things, in the middle of the night. Oh my, my, my. • “The part that sucks about this,” Elizabeth says after a long silence, as we walk back to Smith’s, “Is that we can’t tell anyone or they’ll know we snuck out.” She’s right. I never thought of that. Although telling would be the perfect revenge on her for her rudeness, we can’t tell anyone. But, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun, I think to my self and give a hearty laugh. As quick as we left, I find myself back in bed, still trying to harbor the night’s secrets. I look at my clock and it is already 2:05. With that, my eyes flutter closed, and I drift off to a deep slumber. •••
Dear diary, I cannot believe what happened last night! Claire, Elizabeth and I caught Meggie Milton with one of the stable boys! I do not think that Victoria or Laura know about this, for if they did, they would not probably
still be friends. We are not going to tell them of course, for that would give us away as well. But I just CAN’T BELIEVE IT! I’ve never been more shocked in my life. I suppose the shock will wear off sooner or later, but I must be getting ready now...who knows what today shall bring?
It is seven O’clock when I wake up, and I feel as if I haven’t gotten any sleep at all. Last night’s adventures have me tired, and so I drag myself from my bed, step behind the closet, and change into my uniform. When I am finished, I make my bed. All this takes about twenty minutes. I know-that seems rather long for two simple things, but I’ve never been so exhausted. Claire has gone to Elizabeth’s room to see her new gloves; I shall see them later on, so I saw no point of walking all the way to her room this early in the morning. I have a bit more time to kill before breakfast, so I seat myself in front of my desk and mirror. I’ve never really been that pretty. I mean-I’m not ugly or anything, but let’s face it, I’m no Elizabeth. She has gorgeous long blond hair with dark brown eyes. She has the luxury of being tall as well. Where as I have a darker shade of blonde (not too far from a light brown), dull green eyes, and not to mention I am short and undersized. I’ve never been one to complain about my looks, but sometimes I feel like it. Although I make sure not to, for I know how annoying it is when Claire does it. She doesn’t even have to, she may not be much taller than me, but she has shiny, short brown hair, and stunning blue eyes. Only, no one notices how pretty she is, because she is so quiet. Which is truly a shame. I am startled by a knock on the door to announce to me that breakfast is being served. I look at my reflection in the mirror one more time; try to pinch a bit of color to my pale porcelain skin. But it is no use. The color fades as soon as it comes. Well, this is as good as it is going to get. How pathetic. I walk down the hall and meet Claire and Elizabeth there, before we make our way to the great hall. Victoria, Laura and-ahem, Meggie, are already there. 41
I almost burst out laughing at the sight of Meggie, when Claire nudges me in the arm. A warning. We take our seats and say grace. I notice that Elizabeth has let Claire wear her new gloves. That was very nice of her. “Oh Claire?” Victoria says, with an evil smirk on her face. “Are those gloves new?” She asks. Claire looks up shyly, “Yes but-" Meggie didn’t give her time to explain that the gloves weren’t hers. “Really?” Meggie asks, “Because they look like something from the dump.” Victoria and Laura laugh along at Meggie’s rude comment, when Elizabeth jumps up. “You-"she starts, but I pull her down. “This is not time for fighting girls,” I say, “I’ve important news.” Claire and Elizabeth eye me with a puzzled expression on their faces. “Really?” Victoria asks rudely. “Did you not hear?” I ask in all innocence. “Miss Trenchfield has been going on about it all morning. Apparently Anne had seen one of our girls here doing the most outrageous actions with one of the stable boys!” I look straight at Meggie as I say this, and her eyes go wide with fear. “Go on.” Victoria pleads, with sudden interest. “Well, the girl doesn’t know that Anne saw her of course, she didn’t want to make a scene, but she went straight to Miss Trenchfield and told her what was going on. The word is this girl shall be expelled from Smith’s.” The girls look at me with shocked faces, except Claire and Elizabeth of course who look at me with admiration. “What a disgrace this girl is to our school!” Victoria says. “I don’t feel well.” Meggie announces before excusing herself from the table. That will show her. • “You are brilliant!” Claire says as we make our way to the ballroom. The ballroom happens to be, I think anyways, one of the largest rooms here at Smith’s; and also one of the grandest. Although we only ever use this room during assembly days, (Where our family gets to come and visit us.) our teas, and when we host a ball, apparently. It’s a pity we don’t use it more often, for it truly is a beautiful room.
Miss’s Trenchfield stands in the middle of the enormous room, waiting for us with our dance teacher Miss’s Bangs. You see, Miss’s Trenchfield has given all of our teachers a memo, telling them that we are dismissed from class for the day. So instead of working, Miss’s Trenchfield and Miss’s Bangs are to prepare us properly for our grand ball coming up. Tomorrow, the grade bellow us shall have their turn to prepare, and the day after the nest lowest grade, and so on and so forth. I am a little excited to be out of the classrooms for the day, but I’m also a little nervous about spending the day with Miss’s Bangs. The thing about her and dance is… She takes it way too seriously. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the girls to make their entry. As Victoria walks in, she stares me down. I feel as if I am being put under a microscope for some kind of experiment. The feeling soon goes away, as I take comfort in the fact that Meggie isn’t here. She’s probably hiding in her room so she doesn’t get in trouble. “Good morning ladies.” Miss’s Bangs says enthusiastically. We all murmur our greetings in response. Miss’s Bangs seems pleased with us, and then she continues: “Before we start to dance, we shall work on our posture. We have boards in the back, and you shall slowly walk back and forth across the room.” No one complained as we strapped the boards to our backs, but there was no mistaking the disappointment that covered every girls face. Practicing posture was utterly absurd and utterly boring. Miss’s Bangs tells us to bring our arms out for a better affect. “We look like a bunch of stupid ballerinas!” Claire whispers to me in disgust. I give her a knowing look as if to say: I know. She is defiantly right, I feel foolish walking around like this, and thank god it is the whole class doing it, for if Victoria ever saw me like this without her having to do it herself…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t go over well-for me.
We do this foolish action for about a half an hour. When both Miss’s Bangs and Miss’s Trenchfield are pleased with our work we finally move on to our dancing. We are told to chose a partner and take our stands. I pair up with Elizabeth, and Claire paired up with little Beth Reynolds. Elizabeth first plays the role of the man, and when Miss’s Bangs tells us when, we switch our roles. I absolutely cannot stand being the man. I am completely ungraceful and tend to fall in my bare feet on flat, solid ground. So leading another person in a dance does not go well. I mean, I love to dance, but not the kind where the steps are folded out for you. I like to dance alone in my room, with my own music, twirling about like a maniac. Anyone might think that is weird upfront, but I know I am not the only one. Actually, when Elizabeth is in the mood, we twirl together, and Claire (being too shy to do anything but watch) Sits and laughs merrily with us. We always seem to have fun no matter what we do. “One, two, three. One, two, three.” Miss’s Bangs counts the beat. I count along with her in my head, one, two, three. Trying to keep in time so I don’t mess anything up. Dancing takes so much concentration. I think to myself. “One, two, three; One two three.” Left foot front...now turn. “Very good everyone!” Our teacher says. I let out a sigh of relief. “Now you shall switch roles. Whoever played the part of the man now gets to play the role of a lady.” Miss’s Bangs explained. Great. Here’s the hard part. “And, one two three...” Miss’s Bangs begins to count again. I am trying my absolute hardest not to mess up. But luck doesn’t seem to be on my side today, for it doesn’t take long for me to mess up. As Elizabeth and I glide across the floor-Elizabeth with the utmost grace, and I rather ungracefully; I spin Elizabeth, and somehow (even I don’t know how I managed this one) I knocked down Victoria, and her partner Laura. Miss’s Bangs stops the music, and comes over to our side. Heavens above, could this be anymore embarrassing?
Victoria straightens up. “You did that on purpose Miss Thorn!” She says to me, while accusingly pointing her finger.” I didn’t have time to say anything, for Miss’s Bangs jumped to my rescue. “Now Victoria, it was simply an accident.” She says, but Victoria won’t have it. “She’s had it out for me ever since she came here, I swear it! She’s always been jealous of me, and now she’s trying to ruin my season.” Victoria pouts. I take a deep breath, trying not to let her ridiculous words get to me. I failed. “Miss Brooks,” I start, “why on earth would you get the idea that I am jealous of you? Who in their right mind would want to be in your position?” I ask. “Miss’s Thorn-“Miss’s Bangs says, but gets cut off by Victoria’s shrill voice. “I’ll have you know, that many people envy me.” She says. I laugh in her face. “I’m sure you’re right.” I say with a smile. Victoria has no reply to this. Luckily she doesn’t need one. “It is most unbecoming for a lady to brag about herself Miss Victoria Brooks.” Elizabeth says before linking her arm in mine and walking me to the other end of the room.
Miss’s Bangs seems to be happy that the argument is over, and tells us to take a break. Thank god. I am placed in front of Elizabeth as we walk out of the ball room to fetch something to drink. I can see Victoria standing at the door staring me down. Miss’s Bangs and Miss’s Trenchfield have already gone to the kitchen. I walk slowly, trying to pretend not to notice Victoria’s gaze burning through me. Unfortunately, whether I notice her or not does not make a difference. I walk with my eyes straight ahead; I can see the hallway and the girls rushing with excitement to the kitchen... And then I see the floor. 45
Blast! I do not need to look up to know what has happened to me. Victoria. She tripped me. I look beside me and I see Elizabeth down on the floor with me. Victoria leans down to us and says, “You know girls, lack of grace is most unbecoming.” She lets out a giggle and stands back up. But not faster than Elizabeth. “You know what Victoria; I think you’re the one with the jealousy problem!” Elizabeth is yelling in Victoria’s face. I hurry to regain my stands. Victoria smiles. “Dear me,” she says, “How could that be, you and your friend here are nothing but a couple of...” “A couple of what?” I prompt. “A couple of sluts.” Slap! Full on, right on the cheek. “Witch” Elizabeth whispers to Victoria before walking away. We walk into the kitchen in silence. I look at Victoria, her face is still red, and looks like the sting is still there from Elizabeth’s slap. I cannot say that I feel the least bit sorry for her. I mean, come on. Sluts? I’ve never even held hands with a boy. I don’t yet have anyone in line either. And as for Elizabeth, I know she cannot be too far from the boat that I am in. The rest of the day passes in a haze. A boring, useless waste of time, all in a haze .We dance until lunch. And luckily I do not injure anyone else. After lunch we spend the remainder of our school hours in the ballroom again, making decorations. Nor Victoria or anyone else says anything rude to me or Elizabeth; in fact, no one barely said anything at all. Even Claire was quiet. Meggie stayed-ahem ‘sick’ in her room for the rest of the night. And after mass, like always, we had choir practice. •••
8A new friendship
I cannot believe what I’d just witnessed, I mean, sure, I’ve witnessed worse, far worse… and actually, what I’m talking about is good news, well as far as ‘mean’ good news goes. Elizabeth actually ‘slapped’ Victoria across the face. Of course she didn’t do it for nothing; Victoria was making crude remarks as always… I just wasn’t expecting a SLAP. Well, that should show her then. I am off to choir with high spirits (yeah right), bye.
Miss Morgan leads Me, Claire, Elizabeth (for they BOTH promised me they’d come.) Chelsea, Beth and Victoria to the church. The nights are coming quicker with each day, and the weather getting cold. Actually, that’s putting it mildly, it’s been freezing since October, which we’ve long past. My winter coat is more of a fashion statement rather than a way to keep me warm, so I doubled up in clothing. I’m perfectly aware of how hot it will be in the church, and no doubt I’ll regret it later, but right now, it seems to have been the smart thing to do. Victoria has not said a word to anyone the whole way, and I know she would not have came if it weren’t for the fact that it is her beloved Thomas hosting this practice for those who need to catch up. I doubt she needs any catching up. In fact, I’m sure only half the girls here do: Me, Beth and Chelsea are sure to be the only ones. With Claire and Elizabeth having such an exquisite singing talent, Miss Morgan seemed very surprised to see them; that is until she turned her gaze to me. It seems then she completely realized that they were just here tag along for my sake. Once we get there, I feel a deep blow to find that Ben wasn’t standing beside Thomas. Although I knew it was Thomas holding the practice, I just hoped that Ben would accompany him.
I’m firm on giving up on my hoping any time now. I give a loud sigh, and Miss Morgan gives me a displeasing look. I know it is rude, but I’m walking straight into a night in hell. We girls stand in a line in front of both Thomas and Miss Morgan. Miss Morgan explains the night’s procedure. We are to practice the songs we’ve learned as many times as it takes to get them right. When she and Thomas are pleased, we are at liberty to leave. I thank god that we’ve only yet learned three songs. This really should not take long, seeing how only three of the six girls need extra help. And probably, Claire and Elizabeth will sing loud enough to make this group look good. We start with the first song we’ve learned ‘oh holy night’, of course. I look at Victoria as we sing, she never takes her eyes off Thomas, and it’s easy to see why. Thomas is dressed very formally in a dark suit that goes great against his pale skin and auburn hair. He notices Victoria looking at him and he shoots her a smile. She smiles back. I wonder if she really knows how lucky she is. Not to have Thomas of course, but to be in love. Her life is set out for her, no worries, of if’s, nothing that she does not want. On a personal note, I highly doubt she deserves it, but clearly it is not my judgment to make. We finish the first song quite quickly. Claire and Elizabeth have been great helps for that. None the less, both Miss Morgan and Mister Thomas Benet seem very pleased, give us a little applause and we move on the next song: deck the halls. This is probably one of the songs I know the less. And I hope that neither Thomas nor Miss Morgan notice my lack of contributing in the group. No such luck, as always. Miss Morgan sees me looking helpless and comes over to check if I’m singing. She motions the rest of the girls to stop, then looks at me. “Are we in need of a little help Miss Thorn?” she asks me. I’ve no time to be embarrassed, she’s right, I do need help, and maybe I should admit to it for once. “Yes Miss Morgan, I believe I do.” I say lowly. “Well why did you not say anything? Miss Thorn, how are we to help you when you do not let us know that you are in need?” She takes a deep breath. “Alright ladies, we shall take it from the top, slower this time. Miss Thorn, try to follow me.”
The group starts again, I do my best to follow Miss Morgan’s leave, luckily it works. Sooner rather than later, she is pleased with my effort and progress then leaves me to stand again with Thomas. When my eyes follow her, I notice Thomas looking at me with a grin on his face. Of course the bastard has to find my needing help amusing. Let it go Mary. I say to myself, trying to calm myself down. When Thomas sees my cold glance, not mistaking that it was meant directly for him, he turns his head away. Victoria seems to have seen the whole thing and shoots me a wicked glance. Oh get over yourself! I yell to her in my head. How I wish we didn’t always need to behave like ladies so I could really speak my mind. One day things shall be different, I promise you that. I world where freedom of speech exist, and women were a man’s equal. Kind of hard to imagine, though it’s something I’d like very much. • Much to my liking, the practice didn’t go on long, as I’d predicted. And as much as I thought this night would be hell, it wasn’t bad. As it happens, I did need the practice. And this was a good way to get it. Miss Morgan suggests that we try the last song one more time before we depart, no one objects, and we all start to sing. Suddenly, Victoria leaves the group; she leans over one of the benches. We’ve all stopped singing by now, and it is quiet enough to hear her throw up. It seems that our Victoria is having an off day. Not wanting to catch her sickness, we all step away from her. Thomas offers to walk Victoria back to Smith’s, the perfect gentle men. Yeah right. Miss Morgan declines his offer of course. It would be completely inappropriate to let Thomas, a suitor of Victoria’s to walk her back without a chaperone. Miss Morgan decides to take Victoria back herself, while Thomas stays here with us, to practice once more before she returns. Thomas gives Victoria a pat on the back and a smile to make her feel better; she smiles weakly back and follows our teacher out of the church. “Poor Victoria.” Chelsea says. No one reply’s to her comment. It’s very likely that Victoria was too rude to everyone here for them to feel bad for her. I know that’s how it is for me, anyway. “She’ll be okay.” Thomas says simply, dismissing the conversation. But Elizabeth doesn’t let it go. “I wonder what she has…” Elizabeth wonders out loud.
“I didn’t know you cared for Victoria. Friends are you?” Thomas says to her, “I rather thought-“ “Friends?” Elizabeth cuts him off. “Ha-ha, yeah sure Thomas. No, I was wondering just in case I catch it.” She says. “Now cousin…” Thomas starts, probably about to give a speech on matters no doubt. “So Elizabeth, did you hear of our surprise tomorrow?” I say, not wanting to talk any more about Victoria Brooks. “Why no Mary, I did not.” She says with a smile, clearly aware of my plan. “I do.” Thomas says with a sneaky smile. Every girl looks interested now. “What is it?” Beth asks. “Sorry ladies, I am not a liberty to say.” He says, still smiling. “Oh come now Thomas.” Elizabeth pleads to her cousin. But Thomas ignores her completely, looking at me. “I’d like to know how you came upon hearing about the surprise Miss Thorn.” He says to me. “I over heard her talking to Miss’s Trenchfield.” I say knowingly, not letting him make me feel silly for listening to her conversation. He throws his head back and laughs wickedly, a nice laugh but wicked. “I hope you don’t mean to tell me you were ease dropping Miss Thorn?” He asks half-laughing. “No Mister Benet, I simply over heard her saying…” He erupts in laughter again. “Sure, sure.” He said teasingly, and I can’t help but laugh with him. “I wonder what it could be?” Claire asks, completely making me aware that Thomas and I weren’t the only two people in the room. But before anyone could answer, Miss Morgan steps in the church with Anne the maid (here to clean Victoria’s mess), and beckons us to follow her back to the school. We all follow along, not saying another word until we reach Smith’s. So what was supposed to be a wicked evening, turned out to be a lovely one? I improved on my singing, Victoria got sick, and Thomas wasn’t being as obnoxious as usual. Perhaps we could be friends one day. One day, no where near now. Once he starts making amends for the way he treated me earlier. But one day, maybe a friendship would form. If Victoria would allow it. I laugh wryly to myself. •••
Dear diary, I-Marry Isabella Thorn, am going to the opera! Can you believe it! It was announced last night at choir practice. Miss Morgan wanted to keep it a surprise until the last minute. Of course Thomas is coming (who doesn’t seem to have it out for me anymore) and Ben-yay! I get to spend a whole day with Ben. I am very excited; I must raid my closet for my best dress and best shoes. Well, better get some beauty sleep. Bye.
The next day, I find myself in that Oh-so familiar place. In front of my mirror. Excitement for today’s trip has left me as I stare at my reflection. My appearance can always be summed up in one word- Plain. Although today, I really did try my best, so my appearance went from ‘plain’ to ‘noticeable’. I was wearing one of my best gowns. It was long and white with light blue designs covering it. It had a white, almost sparkly, strip down the middle. It was sleeveless, so I wore white gloves that reached my elbows, and a diamond necklace from my father on my sixteenth 52
birthday. Claire and I did each other’s hair. So last night I put French braids in hers, so today her short brown hair is wavy. I even put little white flowers in it for good measure. She loved it! And I loved mine in return. She did it absolutely brilliantly! She put it all high and up in the front, with the exception of a couple of lose curls hanging down. My hair in the back is curled, and bunched up on one side coming down on the side of my neck. Even if I didn’t really look all that great, I felt lovely. And I could tell by the way Claire’s face lit up at her reflection that she felt lovely too. This is a big change for Claire. She really is lovely, and it’s about time she recognizes it. We all gather at the entrance of the school, dressed in our best, excitement rising in all of us. Elizabeth walks over to the spot where Claire and I are standing. And- like always- She looks beautiful. It’s hard to imagine someone like Victoria having someone courting her before her season, when someone as lovely as Elizabeth doesn’t. I am forced to believe that the world is a very unjust place, for our seating arrangements have already been assigned to us before we arrive there. And guess what? Ben is not in the same box as me, because: surprise surprise! One choir group is being seated in one box, and the other in a different one. Jolly great isn’t it? Even Victoria seems to be displeased at not being able to be near Thomas. When the carriage stops and we arrive at the Opera house, my breath is taken from me. For one of the most majestically beautiful buildings that I have ever seen stands before me. And although I hear they are much more impressive in France; standing here, I find that very hard to believe. It is quite crowded in the building, but even so, Thomas Benet and Ben Kingston have no trouble finding us. But because it is so hectic, we separated into our groups instantly, and our leader led the way to our box. The one good thing about the seating arrangements, is that our teacher, Miss Morgan, is being seated in a different box, with the other group. Thomas beckoned us to our seats. In the top row, Claire sits at the other end, Chelsea sits in the middle, and Laura at the closest end
to the door. In the front row, I sit on the far end, in front of Claire. Thank god! Elizabeth sits in the middle (another blessing), and Thomas on the other side of Elizabeth; which is suitable, considering how they are cousins. The lights dim, and voices hush. I can feel my heart beating wild with excitement. Elizabeth looks at me and smiles brightly. Clearly I am not the only one who is excited. A man walks to the middle of the stage, and a spotlight falls on him. He speaks into the microphone, giving a boring, and not to mention long, introduction to the show we are about to witness. Not wanting to fall asleep, and risk being rude, I pick up my binoculars to see how the other group is doing. Okay. Lie. So I want to see Ben, big deal. I look through the binoculars and spot his box. On the top row, I see Victoria, looking very bored (not that I can blame her). When I moved down, I see Ben with his binoculars- looking back at me…smiling. I quickly turn away embarrassed. I put my hand to my chest feeling the quick rhythm of my heart. He was looking at me too! Is all can think. More than just looking, he was smiling! I feel a foolish grin take place on my face, as I finally turn my attention to the stage. The man leaves, the stage lights up fully, and a young woman appears. Obviously the show is about to begin. The woman, in center stage, takes a deep breath and opens her mouth to sing. Her voice is beautiful. I look back at Claire, then to my side at Elizabeth; even they were staring at the signing woman in awe. Every note that came out of her mouth could be described as nothing but beautiful…lovely in the least. She even looked lovely. She had hair as golden as Elizabeth’s, and from what I could see, she had lovely facial features as well. I also couldn’t help but noticed how nicely she was dressed. I suppose it helps a great deal to be good looking if you’re to be a performer on stage. It must be nice, and I wonder what it would be like on stage, my hair done nicely, a gorgeous dress…
• Suddenly I feel different. Everything has gone black; I could hear someone distant saying my name over and over again. Could that be Elizabeth’s voice? My shoulder starts to shake, and I wonder if I am having an infliction of some kind, seeing how I am not able to control the shaking. I flinch at the thought. I finally open my eyes to find Elizabeth standing in front of me, staring at me, with Thomas behind her, laughing…at me. A sudden realization comes to me, and I know what must have happened. I have fallen asleep. Fantastic. My first Opera since I was too young to remember and I’ve fallen asleep. What a way to make an impression. “Mary, you’ve fallen asleep.” Elizabeth says to me. I hear Thomas laugh even louder, and I give him my hardest stare. “Thank you Elizabeth, for pointing out the obvious!” I snap. I see Elizabeth’s hurt expression at my sudden rudeness towards her. I sigh from regret. “Did I miss the whole show?” I ask in a small voice. Elizabeth gives a little laugh, and I know I am forgiven. “No,” she said, still half laughing, “it’s only the intermission.” “Oh.” I say, happy to only have slept through half. Claire, Elizabeth and I, follow Thomas and the others out of the box, and into the busy crowd. I spot Victoria heading straight for Thomas. She see’s me too, and I look away in embarrassment for staring. The intermission should be a little while, so Elizabeth, Claire and I retreat to the ladies room, after informing Thomas (for he is our chaperone), where we shall be. It takes a little while for us to find our way. This building seems more like a maze than and Opera house. Colorful, well dressed people buzzing around all over the place. It’s a wonder no one gets lost. Elizabeth, Claire and I hold hands no one gets lost. Finally, after ten minutes of searching, Claire has the bright idea of asking someone for directions.(Something we should have thought of straight away.). The old woman points the way, and off we go.
We all stand in front of the mirror, trying to perfect ourselves. I look at my flushed appearance, angry that you can certainly tell that I’ve been asleep. I sighed. Suddenly the door opens; Victoria, Meggie and Laura stomp in as if they own the place. Meggie seems to be back to her normal self, obviously she’s figured out that no one was going to bust her for misbehaving with the stable boy. Victoria and her loyal followers bump us out of the way, and stare at themselves through the mirrors. Victoria sighs. “Did you see Thomas? He couldn’t stop staring at me through his binoculars; I’ve caught him a million times.” Victoria brags. “I know!” Laura jumps in. “I was behind him, and I defiantly noticed.” She finishes, earning a triumphant smile from her leader. I glance at my friends, and I see Elizabeth shooting them a disbelieving look, and I wonder why. “Actually,” Elizabeth starts, causing Victoria and the others to turn to her. They looked stunned to hear her jump into their conversation. I cannot say that I was not surprised either. “I was right next to Thomas, and I know for a fact that he did not even touch his binoculars.” She makes sure to emphasize on chosen words. “And,” she continues, “the only reason he even faced the direction of your box, was to laugh at Mary.” What?! Elizabeth DO NOT say anything. I pleaded in my head. Sadly, Elizabeth is not a mind reader, and does not hear my call. “Pfft!” Victoria retorts, “Why in God’s name would he even glance Mary’s way, let alone laugh at her?” She glares at me. Elizabeth, don’t say it! Again, no sings of Elizabeth proving to have mind reading skills, nor a brain apparently, as she makes her reply“She fell asleep.” Elizabeth says. I hung my head, as Victoria, Laura and Meggie laugh at my expense. “How very charming of you Mary, to fall asleep during such an exquisite event.” Victoria says wryly. I give no reply, for what could I say? She is absolutely right to tell me such things. Elizabeth looks at me with pleading eyes, for she realizes what she’d just done. I mouth “it’s okay”, then leave the ladies room.
I am walking fast, scanning the room, but not really paying attention. And to add to my train of bad luck, I knock into someone. When I look up to see who my poor victim is, my eyes widen in horror. Ben. I just knocked over Ben Kingston. Way to make an impression Mary. “I am so sorry, sir. I don’t know how I could have been so clumsy…” I manage to stutter, while trying to breathe. Ben smiled. “It’s quite alright Miss Thorn, but umm…are you alright?” He asks. I am taken aback by this question, and suddenly I realize that he is referring to my breathing. I sound like a bloody elephant out of breath. I blush in spite of myself and try to redeem myself. “Yes, I am alright.” I answer. Suddenly Thomas is at Ben’s side, but he doesn’t say a word, which personally, I think he should practice more often. “Did you enjoy the first half of the show?” Ban asks me. “Yes,” I say, “I found it quite entertaining.” Thomas starts to laugh. “Are you alright, ol’ chap?” Ben asks him. “I’m fine,” Thomas replies, “but our Mary here seems to have had quite a loss of sleep last night. Oh no, not him too! I mean, Victoria is one thing, but Ben is entirely another. Ben looks at me with curiosity, and I wonder if he can recognize the fear on my face. “Why do you say that?” Ben asks Thomas, not moving his eyes from mine. “Why, you did not notice her flushed face?” Thomas asked him. I looked straight at him, and he stared back, he must have noticed the panic in my face; and for a second I could have sworn I saw something like pity in his eyes. “She just looks tired is all.” Thomas suddenly surprises me by finish with this, before Ben could inquire any more. Maybe Thomas Benet has a heart after all, I think. “I’ve noticed nothing of it.” Ben says, before taking his leave to rejoin his group. I look at Thomas with questioning eyes. His face shows no emotion as I stare him down. “Why did you do that?” I asked him. “Do what?” He’s smiling.
“I don’t have to explain what, you know perfectly well.” “You looked panicked, and I didn’t want to embarrass you.” He says after a bit of a pause. “Why should you care what happens to me?” I snap. “I’m simply a nice person.” He says simply, before scampering off. • The rest of the day passes without event. Somewhat, anyway. The Opera was entertaining to a point. One soon tires of hearing a never changing voice over and over for hours on end. Something odd, yet interesting did happen though. I do not know what to make of it. Maybe Thomas likes making me feel uncomfortable all the time. Or maybe he finds by blushing amusing. Either way, I do not care for it. Near the middle of the second half, I am well into the show before me, I have given up on using my binoculars long ago, for fear that my arm may fall off. Suddenly Claire taps my shoulder and whispers in my ear: “Thomas Benet is staring at you Mary.” At first I thought I may have something embarrassing on my face or something, but being quite sure, that I haven’t touched anything, or barely moved since the intermission, that theory was quite impossible. So I finally glanced at Thomas so see if Claire was right. And sure enough, when I looked, he was looking back at me. But instead of turning his head away, like any normal person would have done, he just kept on staring, eventually suppressing a smile, which causes me to turn away. But other than that, nothing exciting happened, nothing exciting at all… •••
10Dream come true
Dear diary, The ball is fast approaching, and I’ve made no further progress with Mister Ben Kingston. Although he did make conversation with me during yesterday opera, the conversation did not go anywhere. We have another choir practice tonight, and I shall have to work what little charm I have. Hopefully it works. Well, time for church, I must be off!
We are sitting in church, as the priest sites from the bible. “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast…” He says loudly for all to hear, and I mouth the words with him. I am very familiar with this passage, for it is one of my favorites. Unlike most girls here at Smith’s, I actually listen during mass. At least when I’m not being distracted by my friends. Of course, to keep up a good reputation, almost every family goes to church on Sundays, sadly, barely any of them get the point. We finish with a prayer before the rest of the school leaves. Time for choir practice.
We are supposed to be learning a new song today. Although it wont be actually new to anyone, I doubt, for we’ve all heard the Christmas songs of our century, and most likely any other one. Thomas Benet and Ben Kingston, arrive on time, and walk gracefully down the isle towards us. Even though I like one, and detest the other, they are both inhumanly handsome and graceful in all their actions. I curse Thomas for being so attractive, and not having the personality to match it. It is unnatural to detest someone and be attracted to them at the same time. Ben on the other hand, was both charming and attractive. It makes me wonder why I would even dream of him showing an interest in me. Clearly he is out of my league. But a girl can dream, can’t she? We, as a routine, split into our groups, stand in our usual spots, and wait for Thomas to start to speak. “Good evening ladies. As I promised, today we shall be singing a new song.” Thomas says in a loud, deep voice. We all know better than to start talking in excitement, although we all want to, for fear of angering our Teacher. “I’m very pleased to inform you, that we are making great progress, and with less than a month before the concert, we shall be ready without a doubt.” He says and starts to give us applause. We all blush in embarrassment at his satisfaction with our progress. I roll my eyes at Elizabeth, and she laughs. I realize very quickly how stupid that action was, for Thomas had seen the whole thing. Fantastic, I wonder what he shall do now. Feed me poison? Lock me here in the church after dark? It really wouldn’t surprise me at all. Some dark revenge must be on his mind. And after a pause of thought, I see that he has chosen public embarrassment as my punishment. “As I was saying,” he resumed, “You are all making very good progress except for one.” He takes a step towards me, and bends his face to mine to our eyes are at an equal level. “I will need to talk to you after practice.” He says, and before he turns, I see a smile curve up the side of his face. And with that smile, he’s made me hate him even more than I thought possible. After our little scene, he informs us that the song we shall be singing is ‘joy to the world’. A very well known song throughout the girls. Some seem happy to be singing a song we all know well; others seem to be disappointment at the lack of learning something new.
I happen to fall into the category of those who are happy to be singing a well known song. Singing alone is a challenge for me, singing something new would just ruin me more than I already am. While the other girls follow along obediently, I pretend to mouth the words and focus my energy elsewhere. I cannot see the other group from here, so staring at Ben was out. I ended up looking, as I always do, at the stain glass windows. It’s amazing how someone could have thought to make such an art. I wonder how they make them. Oh well, I won’t ever find out, it’s not really important anyway. Something must be wrong with me, to wonder about such useless things. I guess that’s what happens when you’re exposed to nothing but boredom, besides reading an interesting book. Our practice passes slowly, uneventfully, and never ceasing to keep me bored. We finish practice early, for the song was indeed very well known and, it was nothing to learn it. The other groups have finished before us, and are waiting in the benches of the church, watching us as we finish. Once we are finished, I grab my shawl, and I wait for Thomas to come over and give me a speech on proper behavior and obedience, for my rude behavior earlier. Instead I am surprised to find Ben standing in front of me, smiling. My face starts to turn red, my heart beating faster by the second. “Good evening miss Thorn.” He says. “Good evening, mister Kingston.” I say, trying not to look him in the eyes, for fear I might never move my gaze from his ever again. He stopped smiling for a second, but regained his composure soon enough. “I-I was wondering…if you…would perhaps like to accompany me to the ball?” He asked with his head down. I must be dreaming. Did he really just ask me that? “I’m sorry, what?” I asked. I couldn’t help the thought that maybe I’d misunderstood him. Actually, that was most likely the case. He looked confused. “The ball? The Christmas ball Smith is upholding. Would you like to go with me?” He asked me the question a second time. Now I know it wasn’t my imagination, and all I have to do is keep my heart beat to a minimum, and try to answer back. “Sure.” I say, completely feeling foolish for not being able to contain the smile that has now reached my ears. “Sounds great!” he says, and I smiled. After smiling back at me and walking away, I turn around, tempted to run to Claire and Elizabeth to share my news, when I’m stopped by Thomas. He has the oddest look on his face. Almost pained.
“How long have you been standing there Mister Benet?” I ask him sternly. He completely ignored my question. “You’re not really going with him are you?” He asked me. “That’s not really any of your business is it?” He smiled unexpectedly. “Quite right Miss Thorn. I simply came to tell you your punishment.” “Great, out with it. I’d like to make this as short and less painful as I possibly can.” I say, though he never stopped smiling. “After our next practice,” he said, “You must stay afterwards for extra practice. I’ve already spoken to Miss Morgan, and she will be here to help me.” I’m lost for words and do not say anything. This is the worst punishment he could have possibly thought up. He realizes that I’m not to say anything further. He smiles, and bids me good night. I walk back to school with Claire, Elizabeth and Jessica this time, all of us sticking together, to hide from the cold. Winter is definitely here…and there’s no escaping it. •••
Dear diary, I’ve just received a new package from my parents. And you’ll never guess what was in it… Drum roll please. A brand new gorgeous gown for the ball…and, promises for another new gown for the concert. Wait, that isn’t even the best part. Ben Kingston asked me to the ball! Things seem to be looking up for once. I hope my luck doesn’t run out too soon. Well, Miss’s Trenchfield is calling me, I must go.
I seat myself in the ballroom with my class and an unmistakable happy face on. I’ve shared my good news of Ben with Claire and Elizabeth, and all week I’ve been walking around like a grinning imbecile. Not that I care. In fact, I’ve been more care-free this past week then I’ve ever been. Claire and Elizabeth are happy too; and not just for me, but for themselves also. We’re just peachy all the time; much to Victoria’s distaste…We are on top of the world.
Two days ago, Elizabeth received a letter from a mister James Franklin, asking her to accompany him to Smith’s upcoming ball. Elizabeth was ecstatic! Apparently, her cousin George is an acquaintance of Mister Franklin, and that is how Elizabeth and he met. I couldn’t be happier for her. Moving onto Claire, she has been holding out on us. Elizabeth and I have just been informed at the arrival of Elizabeth’s letter that Claire had been asked long before any of us. “I didn’t want you to make a big deal out of it like you are now.” She had said. And okay, she was right. OF COURSE we made a big deal about it, it is a big deal. A man whom I’ve known Claire to have a crush on for a year now, Jessie Tigers, had asked her the day after the ball was announced. Yes, things are great for everyone. The only person who has yet to find a date is poor Jessica, whom we have hope for her yet. And although I do not know of the other grades and their dates, I’m sure it is well for them as well. If not, they still have plenty time. Sort of. Finding myself, once again, in the ballroom preparing decorations, I can’t say that I am all that happy right now. Madame Bouchard is in charge of watching over us with Miss’s Trenchfield this time, since we shall not be practicing dance. Thank God. Instead though, we are waiting on our ‘surprise guests’ to come and teach us how to make glowing balloons. And yes, it is as boring as it sounds. Or so it seemed that way. After a long enough wait, a rather big man comes in with a handful on young men behind him…of which include Mister Ben Kingston. Thomas too, but who cares. My face instantly lights up, and both Claire and Elizabeth nudge me. I hope to God that he didn’t see that. They all stand in a line in front of us. Victoria seems to be as happy as I am as she looks on Thomas, though he does not seem to notice her. The bigger and older man starts by introducing himself as Sir Henry Laird. He wasn’t very interesting to listen to, or to look at for that matter, with his red face and round belly; so I find myself daydreaming again, although I don’t remember what about when Ben comes to sit across from me. He is holding solid circles that resemble much like bracelets, tiny sticks and balloon-like material. And I know he means to be our guide for the day. I am so excited that I am tempted to stand up on the table and do a happy dance. The only thing stopping me is the fact that Ben is sitting across from me. I look around and find Thomas near Victoria and her pin
head friends, and two other guys helping Chelsea and Beth, while the other helps Jessica. He seems pleased to be there, and although he isn’t very handsome, I hope she takes a liking to him, and perhaps he’ll ask her to the ball. “Alright ladies,” Ben says smiling at us. Even Claire and Elizabeth can’t help smiling back at him. “You have you’re equipment, you are free to start.” Elizabeth and Claire immediately get to work on their project, clearly following the instructions of mister-what was is? Henry? Oh well, the big guy. Whereas, I, on the other hand, had not listened, and look like a helpless fool with my hands on my lap and my head looking down. No doubt Ben thinks me to be daft, and regrets asking me to the ball already. He might perhaps cancel. My heart beat quickens in panic at the thought. “Are you quite alright Miss Thorn?” He asks me politely. “Oh uh, yes…well no. Umm…” I sigh. I’m surely charming him now with my stuttering. I quickly regain composer and finally answer is question. “I haven’t really been paying attention at the instructions is all.” I answer lamely. To my surprise he only gives a little laugh before shaking his head. “I don’t blame you.” He says, still smiling his beautiful smile. “Henry over there can get a bit dull. No worries luv, that’s why I’m here.” His smile broadens, almost breaking my heart. I nod stupidly, and take the balloon looking material, thinking that’s what to start with. Ben looks at me, and shakes his head again. “No,” he says taking the material from my hand. And passes me the circle thing, brushing my hand doing so. It tingles where we touched, and I start smiling idiotically once again. “Start with this.” He says, and then passes me the glue. Once I finally got it down the first time, I am able to do it alone the next times. And even though, neither one of us three girls need his help, he stayed to chat. His family happens to be very wealthy, (he wasn’t bragging or anything, Elizabeth, big mouth that she is, asked him based on his nice clothes.), and he is the youngest in his family. He has an older brother and an older sister. As I already knew, he is a talented singer (else why would he be helping our choir?), he is to play a role in the Oliver Twist musical. All in all, he is fantastic. “I’m rather nervous for my performance.” He said, telling us of his musical debut. “I’ve never performed in front of such a big audience. It is being held at the Opera house you know.”
“I’m sure you will do splendid.” I say, complimenting him. He smiled at this and replied, “I hope you’re right.” Then he hit my nose with his finger, making me scrunch my face. Claire and Elizabeth have been observing the whole process with watchful eyes. It had made me a bit uncomfortable at first, but I soon forgot they were even in the room. “Très bien mes chéries,” Madame Bouchard walks over to compliment our progress, “They will look beautiful at the ball.” She gives a big smile, then returns to talk with the round man. “Your teacher is very nice.” Ben said after Madame Bouchard walked away. “Sure, she’s a gem.” Elizabeth says sarcastically, and I shoot her a warning look. “You only do not like her because you cannot speak French.” Claire says, and I laugh at this, for it is true. Elizabeth has always been known to struggle during our French classes. Elizabeth gives an unattractive grunt before resuming to her work. “Vous ne parlez pas français ? ” Ben asks in an even more flawless French than my own. How is it possible that he is even more perfect than he was two minutes ago? “I don’t know what you just said,” Elizabeth says to Ben, “but it has just only been established that I can not speak French, and I would appreciate it if you did not speak French around me.” Elizabeth is being so incredibly rude that I could hit her. Luckily, Ben stays the perfect gentle men by simply responding to her comment politely“I am sorry to have inconvenienced you, madam.” He tips his hat, and walks away to join Thomas and his posy. I shoot Elizabeth a shrewd look. She gives me one back. “How has it managed to escape your attention, that you are a complete fool?” I say a little too loudly, and Chelsea glances over at us with curiosity. “It’s rather rude to stare!” Elizabeth snaps at her, and Chelsea quickly turns her head the other direction. “As for you,” She then says, looking straight at me. “Do not blame me for him leaving. He was the one being rude. I don’t like him.” “You couldn’t have just pretended for me?” I asked, batting my eyelashes with exaggeration, and Claire laughs. “Oh alright,” Elizabeth gives in, “I’ll behave for your sake.” I give a triumphant smile and hug her hard. When I notice that she can’t breathe is when I let her go. She gave me a weak smile in return. I do not get to test Elizabeth’s promises, sadly on my part, for Miss’s Trenchfield dismisses us and our work soon after Ben left our
table. We are told to pay a proper thank you to the men who came to help us, and I am thrilled to have another chance to speak to Mister Kingston, even if it is only exchanging a couple of words. I impatiently make my way first, thanking the men that I do not know, in hopes to get to Ben as soon as I possibly can. “I hope you very well enjoyed yourself Miss Thorn.” He said smiling while shaking my hand. He’s shaking my hand! “It was very nice of you to make time for us.” I say, for once not stumbling over my own words. “It was my pleasure.” He said, he still hasn’t let go of my hand, and suddenly…he raised it to his mouth and kissed it gently. My knees start to buckle, and I fear I may fall. Luckily Ben seems to notice, and he steadies me holding my elbow with one hand, and my waist on the other. He doesn’t realize that his touch makes it worse. Thank goodness I steady myself before I fall or faint, or whatever was happening to me. “Thank you.” I say once again, but he doesn’t answer back, he only smiles then walks away. Still a little spun from Ben’s touch, I say my thank you to the round man-Henry, and finally to Thomas. I should have known before shaking his hand that he was going to be difficult. Once again, looking into his pained eyes, I say thank you. “For what Miss Thorn?” He asks with a joking smile. “For taking the time to help us.” I say. “But I didn’t help you.” “No you didn’t.” I say, and he laughs. “Maybe some other time then.” And he walks away, leaving me to think that I’ve never met a more peculiar man. For the rest of the day I hear buzzing and gossip of me and Ben. Clearly we had witnesses of him kissing my hand, which I can’t say that I mind having every girl in the school envy me having Ben, instead of Victoria having Thomas for a change. •••
12A walk in the park
Dear diary, As great as everything is going right now, my fairy tale shall have to stay on hold for the night. Tonight is my punishment with Thomas Benet and Miss Morgan for disturbing the last choir practice. I am so nervous, I can’t sing and it shall be only my voice in the church. Thomas will make fun of me no doubt. Well then, I think I’ll take a trip to the Library to calm myself before my punishment. Farewell.
Smith’s library is another one of the school’s biggest rooms. We have hundreds of books here, perhaps thousands, I do not know, for I have never counted. Throughout my three years spent here, I’ve spent a lot of my time in the library. Although none of my friends care to ever come with me. It is perhaps the most peaceful room, and the most enchanted. “Good evening Miss Thorn.” Miss Logan, our librarian, greets me with a smile, as she always does. 68
“Good evening Miss Logan.” I say before retreating to the fully stalked shelves. Miss Logan and I are pretty close, you could say. Bound by the love of books; and as corny as that sounds, it is true. Not many girls come here, and I imagine Miss Logan gets to be quite lonely, for I know not of any immediate family of hers. For unlike the rest of the teachers or workers here, I’ve never seen her with a visitor. It makes me very sad, which gives me more reason to come to the library more often. I quickly make my way to the fiction department…my favorite kind of book. I run my fingers across their spines until they stop at one. The odyssey. I’ve read it more than twice already; it is a very interesting book. No wonder it claims to be such a classic. I pull it out of it’s place in the shelves, between many others and walk over to Miss Logan’s desk. “Now Mary, you’ve read it three times. You’re sure you don’t want to try another?” Miss Logan asks me politely. “No thank you Miss.” I say, “This is the one I want.” Miss Logan gives a little giggle, writes my name and the name of the book down on a paper, bids me good night, and I am gone. After setting my book down on the dresser beside my bed, I grab my coat, yes the one that does not keep me warm, and forfeit on trying to put on more layers of clothes. Besides, I doubt I even have time for that. Keeping my head down as I pass the other girls in the hall, I meet Miss Morgan at the entrance, and she leads me out. Lucky for me, she did not lecture me on proper behavior for a lady, or even hint at any of that. Instead, she talked about the concert, in a more excited voice that I’ve ever heard her talk in. Miss Morgan is a very nice lady, but sometimes she tends to come off a little rough, if that’s the right word for it. But once you get to know her, you learn to take nothing she says to you personal. Thomas was already waiting in the church. He had a black suit on, much like the one Ben was wearing yesterday, and honestly, I cannot say which one it suits more. But my thoughts don’t focus on the subject much longer; instead I dread the coming hour and keep my head facing down, preparing for a boring night. Miss Morgan seats herself in the bench behind me, clearly getting ready to watch my every move, not saying a word unless necessary; which normally I’d be thankful for, but seeing how Thomas is the replacement, I groan at the thought of spending a whole hour with his so called ‘guidance’. “Good evening Miss Thorn.” Thomas says, not smiling this time. “Good evening Mister Benet.” I say with a most unimpressionable voice, which earns me a glare from my teacher who has made her way beside me. Thomas finally smiles again, showing a mouth full of perfect
white teeth. Wouldn’t we all like to be as lucky as Mister Benet? He makes me sick. “Since this practice is only for you,” He says, his malicious smile growing with every word, “You shall pick which song you would like to rehearse.” Why how nice of you Mister Benet. Putting on a polite show for Miss Morgan are you. Well I’ll show you I can do the same. “Deck the halls.” I say in a proud voice, not that it makes me sound any less pathetic that two seconds ago, but it shall have to do. “Deck the halls it is.” Thomas says. I was right to have picked that song. Of course my choice wasn’t without reason. It is the easiest song to sing, and to only one where my voice doesn’t sound like a drowning pig. But one song couldn’t possibly keep us busy for a whole hour, and before you know it, we’re on to the next song. “Since you got to pick the first song,” Thomas says, “It’s only fair that I pick the next one.” Curse him. I knew there had to be some trick up his sleeve. “Fair is fair.” I say challenging him, and forcing my best at a smile. Miss Morgan has not said a word so far, for which I am thankful. Even Thomas wasn’t giving me as much criticism as I thought. Only the occasional: “Sing from you diaphragm, not your throat!” “Don’t forget the words Miss Thorn; a ten year old could remember them.” And so on and so forth. But other than that, it wasn’t hell…completely. We are half way through ‘O’ holy night’, one of the hardest songs to sing; courtesy of Mister Benet, of course, when the church door swings open. “Miss Morgan, I’m sent to fetch ye, yer needed at the school. It’s an emergency Miss’s Trenchfield says.” It is Anne standing at the door panting. She probably had to run here the poor thing. “Alright,” Miss Morgan says. “I’m coming, Thomas, I want you to escort Miss Thorn here back to school. I’ve no time to waste doing so myself.” And with that she hurries out into the cold following Anne. Perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better night. Not. How is it that I always manage to get the bad end of every stick? Thomas, Victoria’s suitor…VICTORIA’S suitor, is the one to escort me back to school. And as happy as I am that practice is cute short for me, this is not the way I intended to spend my free time. “What do you suppose happened?” Thomas asked me. “How should I know?” I bark back. I’m being rude, it’s unattractive, and I know it, but I cannot help it.
“I..I was simply wondering.” He says in a hurt tone, and his smile fades. Oh why did the Lord have to bless me with a big heart? Guilt creeps up inside me right away. “I hope it isn’t too serious.” I offer, and his smile returns. “I suppose I should take you back before they think I’ve kidnapped you.” He jokes. “Yes,” I say half-laughing, “We wouldn’t want that.” I pull my coat tightly to me as we walk out of the church, waiting for the cold air to hit me. It doesn’t fail. As soon as we step outside, the freezing wind hits me with a pang! Almost knocking me over. Thomas gently steadies me upright. “Steady now.” He says, and I can hear the laughter in his voice. “You’re quite a clumsy girl aren’t you?” I glare at him. What a rude comment to make. I mean, he’s right, but he didn’t have to point it out. “Aren’t you observant.” I say matching his tone. “Sometimes.” He says. “With you it’s quite obvious though.” He gives a little laugh, looking away as if remembering something. “Every step you take is so forced. It’s like you have to concentrate so hard just so you don’t fall on solid ground.” “Have you been watching me, Mister Benet?” I ask, only joking. “Yes.” That wasn’t the answer I was excepting. I quickly rack my brains for a means to turn Thomas back into the unpleasant character I’m used to. “I’ve noticed.” I say, attempting a mean voice. Somehow, at the moment it almost seems impossible. “Have you?” His white teeth show brightly in the black of night. Not to mention his smooth looking pale skin. My hand inches forward as if to touch it. I quickly snap it back, holding in with my other hand, returning to reality. “It’s hard not to notice someone giving you death stares all the time.” I say indifferently, not looking at him. “Death stares?” He asks, his face incredulous. “What do you call this?” I ask, giving him my best example of my hardest stare. He throws his head back and laughs, as I’ve often seen him do before. “I’m afraid you are mistaken, Mary. If I was looking at you oddly, it was because I was curios.” He answered, and I didn’t fail to notice the use of my first name without a ‘Miss’ or ‘Thorn’ attached. Mary he had said. Just Mary, as if we were well acquainted…as if we’ve known each other our whole lives. I cannot say that I did not like it. At that thought my heart beat quickens. My breath catches in my chest. I do my best to attempt an answer. I failed.
Instead of words, a pathetic croak escapes my mouth. “You don’t have to say anything.” He said to me, avoiding my eyes. And I turn away too. We stay quiet, walking in silence for a little while. “Well, what do we have here?” Thomas asks while reaching for something in the snow. When he pulls his hand back up, I saw that he held a small shiny object in his hand. “What is it?” I ask him, sincerely interested. “A key.” He said, passing it to me. I bring it close to my eyes, for it is hard to see in the dark, to observe it. It is magnificent, old fashioned and beautiful. “I wonder what it opens.” I ponder out loud. “I know what it opens.” Thomas says with an eye brow raised and a smile on his face. “You do not.” I say disbelievingly. “Believe what you like, Mary.” He said, using my first name again. He stops for a second and we just stand, looking at each other. “Perhaps,” He resumed, “one day I shall tell you what it’s for.” He put his hand on mine, on top of the key. “For now,” he says, “You can keep it.” I look at him, bewildered, and a somewhat quizzical expression on my face. “So you really know what it’s for?” I ask, “Ummm, well, thanks. It’s beautiful, I’ll take good care of it,” I smile at him, and he smiles back. Abruptly, I feel different somehow. Why is he being so nice all of a sudden? I don’t know why I feel a sudden surge of anger, but I can’t contain it. “Who the bloody hell do you think you are?” I shout at him. I do not know if his puzzled expression is because he is surprised at m cuss, or the fact that I snapped at him out of nowhere. Probably both. “Pardon me, Miss Thorn?” He’s back to using my formal name. “Don’t play stupid. You know very well what I am talking about. Do you have multiple personality disorder, or are you just plain insane? One minute you are being inexcusably rude, getting me into trouble and god knows what else. The next thing I know, you’re being polite, and probably friendlier than necessary for your student!” I let out a deep breath, but feel better after I got that out. “WHAT? I’m insane?” he yells, “What about you, you big mouthed shrew! If you paid any bit of attention, you could figure out my behavior all on your own!” Despite the difference in height, we are yelling in each others faces. “Big mouthed shrew? Pay attention? Are you daft? Do you even know what you’re saying?” I yell. “You know what, Mary, you’re impossible. I’m not going to bother trying to be nice to you anymore. It’s useless.”
“Good!” I yell back, “I’m tiring of this game!” He turns his back on me and walks away, just in time for him not miss the tears stinging my eyes and rolling onto my face. I don’t try to stop them, it’s useless, instead I welcome them and cry until I cannot. I hadn’t even noticed that we were already back at Smith’s. I hope no one heard us shouting. I doubt any one did though, for they would have came outside to see what all the fuss was about. Luckily enough, I was right. No one heard us shouting. I do not join the other girls for tea in the sun room. Instead, I retreat back to my own room, eager to be alone. When I storm into my room (still red faced and angry), I am surprised to see Claire sitting on her bed, reading. “I hope you don’t mind,” She said, “but I borrowed your book.” She holds out the worn out copy of the Odyssey that I borrowed from the library earlier. Then she takes a second look at me. “Are you okay?’ she asks. “No.” I say, changing into my night gown, pouting. “Thomas was that bad, huh?” She asked. “You’ve no idea, Claire. The man in completely insane.” “Oh come on Mary. It couldn’t have been that bad.” She says, clearly thinking that I’m exaggerating. “It was hell.” I say, turning off the light, preparing myself for what I know will be a sleepless night. Yet it doesn’t stop me from putting the key from Thomas onto a chain and on my neck, allowing me to fall asleep with a little more ease. •••
13Night time swim
Dear diary, I will not tell you how my punishment went last night, for I fear I might scream if I think about it anymore. Anyway, for once, I am looking forward to the next choir practice (whenever it may be), for I shall get to see Ben again…even if seeing him means seeing Thomas, but oh well. It’s worth it, I guess. Ugh, well I better drag myself out of bed if I don’t want to be late for breakfast.
The next day, I find myself completely exhausted, even a bit delirious from a loss of sleep. It only becomes worse when I enter Madame Bouchard’s French class, only because I know I shall have to keep myself awake to work. I haven’t been able to talk to Claire or Elizabeth yet, so I am not the least surprised to hear Claire ‘pssst’ me, with a note in her hands. I subtly take the note, careful to make sure that Victoria and her friends haven’t seen it this time.
Are you feeling better?
I read Claire’s lovely handwriting. I make sure Madame Bouchard is busy torturing someone far from me before writing my reply.
I wrote, and Claire gives me a sympathetic smile. Since my fight with Thomas I’ve been absolutely miserable. I hate him with a passion for the way he’s made me. Suddenly there is a knock at the class room door. A man whom I have never seen before stands in the doorway with a beautiful bouquet of roses in his hands. “Can I help you monsieur?” Madame Bouchard asks the man. “Um, the head mistress sent me to this room. I’ve a delivery for a Miss Mary Thorn.” He says, and all eyes are suddenly on me. I cannot keep my face from turning red as the delivery boy hands me the bouquet. Jessica makes the observation that there is a card attached. Something I haven’t even noticed myself. Every girl in the room gathers around me, even Madame Bouchard stands behind me, Interest peeking inside her. I open the envelope and take out the card to read out loud for my audience. “Dear Mary Thorn,” It begins, “I’ve sent you this bouquet of roses as a thank you for accepting my invitation to accompany me to the ball. I hope you enjoy these roses I’ve picked for you…they are as beautiful as you are. Love Mister Ben Kingston.” Every girl sighs once I’ve finished. And a bunch of comments are sprung out at once. “How romantic!” or “Mary, you are so lucky!” Only Victoria sits in the back, not saying a word.
Jealous are we? I laugh quietly to myself. “Alright Mary, the flowers are very nice, and I bid you congratulations. But I’m going to have to ask you to bring them up to your room. We shall not have anymore distractions today.” “Oui, Madame Bouchard.” I answer, and obediently bring them up to my room. Not before Claire slips another note in my hands. I wait until I am safely inside my room before reading it.
How about now?
She wrote, referring to her earlier question: are you feeling better?. My smile reaches up to my ears. As if she even had to ask. • The remainder of the day passes in a blur. A good one though. I’ve done nothing all day but daydream…and you could probably guess about who. Yes, that’s right-Ben. I haven’t even thought about that wretched Thomas after I received my bouquet of roses. Claire and Elizabeth are sitting on my bed admiring the bouquet for the millionth time today. “You’ve no idea how lucky you are Mary.” Elizabeth says pouting, “You’re life gets interesting, and mine stays blah!” Claire and I both laugh at her. “It’s not funny you guys!” Elizabeth says. Clair finally stops laughing. “Oh yes it is!” She says. Elizabeth stands up in front of us. I know her well enough to see that she’s got a plan. “I propose another sneak out tonight.” She says, looking very serious. “No.” I say firmly. “We are not doing that again!” Once again, I see her sad face, and I immediately feel bad again. “Mary,” Elizabeth pleads, “You’re already leading into an exciting life with your Ben. Won’t you have fun with us , before it’s too late?” She makes a pouty face and kneels down on her knees. “Don’t be so melodramatic, Elizabeth. Of course I’ll come.” I say. Clearly I’ve pleased her, for she immediately jumps up and down, grabbing Claire to jump with her. I can tell that Claire is uncomfortable with the idea of sneaking out again, but she doesn’t say a word. I do not try to comfort her either. If she won’t tell us what’s on her mind, I shall not help her.
“This is great!” Elizabeth has finally stopped jumping. “I’ve a special surprise for you guys!” Elizabeth says, and Claire shoots me a scared look. Here we go. • Once again, we wait until midnight to sneak out again. This time I make sure that Claire doesn’t fall asleep before we go like the last time. And we make sure to be extra quiet as to not wake the maid again. Our efforts, I’m happy to report, were successful. We made it out of Smith’s quickly and without disruptions. When we go outside, it’s raining. We already knew that of course, the rain was hitting our window all night, sounding like tiny drums. In the event of the rain, we all brought our umbrellas. Elizabeth starts leading the way in the direction of the forest. “Where are you taking us, Elizabeth?” Claire asks her. “For a swim!” Elizabeth says and starts skipping closer to the forest. Is she insane? Does she not realize what month we’re in? Oh well, I’m not one to argue with Elizabeth, it could go on forever with two stubborn girls like us. “But it’s winter! There’s snow on the ground!” Claire makes the observation for me, and I’m happy for it. Elizabeth owes us an explanation. “Stop whining and follow me, It’s a surprise!” Elizabeth says irritated and faster skips into the forest. Claire and I do as she says, and follow her silently. I link arms with Claire once we’re into the forest. Even if I’d never admit it, the dark sometimes scares me. Especially when it’s the middle of the night, with three defenseless girls, walking into a dark strange forest. Claire seems to be happy for my arm linked in hers…she’s probably frightened as well. We walk for sometime, never turning, only walking straight ahead, for which I am glad for. I would never want to get lost in here. Finally, Elizabeth stops when we reach a large pool of water. I can only imagine how beautiful the sight would be in the summer, or even the spring. But out here in the dark, in the winter, the pool does not really appeal to me. “We’re here.” Elizabeth says enthusiastically. I look at her with a confused expression. I didn’t want to get into an argument with her, but this was ridiculous; someone has to say something. “You can’t be serious, Elizabeth. We’re in the peak of winter, we are not swimming in the freezing cold water. We’ve no swimsuits anyway.” I say to her. She doesn’t look angry, to my surprise. Instead she smiles.
“Dear Mary, of course we are not going to swim in freezing water. I’m not that insane. Take your shoe off and dip your toe into the pool. Go on.” I do as Elizabeth says, I take my shoe off, and dip my toe into the pool- bracing myself for a chilly experience. Instead, I find the water warm and inviting. I look up at Elizabeth in surprise. “I don’t believe it! The water is hot! How can that be?” I ask her. “I found this place the first year I was sent here, before you and Claire came along,” Elizabeth tells, “My older sister Alexandra, you’ve both met her, I’m sure you remember. Anyway, she brought me here one December, to take a swim in the winter. I asked her the same question. She didn’t know the answer either; except for there are quite a few pools like this in the world. My guess is that there must be some sort of volcanic rock forming the pool. But I cannot be sure, of course.” “Have you come here often since then?” Claire asked her. “No, not since the first time Alex brought me here. I’m surprised I could still find it.” Elizabeth gives a little laugh, puts her umbrella down and starts undoing her coat. “What are you doing?” I shout at her, horrified. “I’m not going to stand out here in the rain and simply watch the pool. I’m going to swim in it.” She says, now pilling up her night gown. “Elizabeth, we’ve no swim suit.” I say to her. But she just shakes her head as if it was the silliest thing I could have said. “So? It’s dark out and nobody is here. Take off your night gown and swim in your undergarments, no one shall know.” She says to me. I look at Claire and I can see her begging me with her eyes not to. Hoping I’ll take a stand and stay out here with her. Sorry Claire. I close my umbrella and take off my coat and my nightgown. Elizabeth is already in the pool and seems pleased to have me following her lead. I dip into the pool, and immediately feel warmth peek into me. The rain is coming down harder now, and I couldn’t care less. This is the best feeling I’ve felt in a long time. Better than a bath, better that a box of milk chocolate, better than a bouquet of roses from Ben. This place is secret, a secret joy amongst three friends, and one older sister, to share. I lean against one of the sides of the pool, closing my eyes, breathing in the pure bliss of the pool. “Mary.” I hear Claire say my name quietly, pleading me to come back out. “Don’t be scared Claire,” I say to her, “You’re reputation shall not be ruined. No one is here to see you. You’ll love it once you come in.” I say, knowing how much she hates to be left out, that she will come into the pool of Elizabeth and I are in it. I can see her slowly undressing, leaving only her undergarments, slipping carefully into the pool. I watch her as she closes her eyes, and smile lights up her face.
“Told you.” Elizabeth says from the other side of the pool. “So you did.” Claire says, swimming around a little bit. We all do the same, swimming around, splashing each other, and playing around. All the while wondering how Smith’s private school could hold such secret enchantment and have no one know about it. But how should I know if any one knows about it? Maybe many people know, Miss’s Trenchfield perhaps. Maybe even Victoria. Maybe someone who does not go to Smith’s knows about it. What if someone should come? Right when I think that, a voice calls out into the night. “Oo is that, o’er there? Come on out now.” A male voice says. I am frozen with fear. Apparently Elizabeth and Claire are too. I act first, jumping out of the pool, pulling my nightgown over my wet body. The girls follow me out. Suddenly a huge gust of wind blows, taking away my umbrella. Elizabeth takes my hand, trying to pull me along. She and Claire have already buttoned up their coats and have their umbrellas in hand. “Come Mary, quickly, before we are caught!” Elizabeth says. I take her hand off my arm. “You and Claire go without me. I have to fetch my umbrella, don’t wait up, I shall be there soon.” “But Mary, it’s just an umbrella.” Claire says. “No it’s not. It was a gift from my late grandfather. And I am going to fetch it. Now go!” I say to them. “Come now, I here ye!” The voice calls out again. That’s all it takes for Elizabeth and Claire to run away. I do not wait for the voice to call out again to run, I leave my coat by the pool, and run to the direction where I saw the wind blow my umbrella. I was freezing, having just stepped out of water, my skin soaking through my nightgown, walking into the cold of winter, I was almost numb. I thanked God when I fount my umbrella up against a tree, then cursed myself when I heard the voice again…right behind me. “ ‘Ello there luv’. Wots a beauty like you doin’ out ere’ in the middle o’ the night, eh?” The gypsy said to me. I’ve never met a gypsy before, but I’ve heard a lot about them. They were said to be filthy, stealers, and sometimes worse. This one, I feared was worse. “I-I came to f-fetch my umbrella.” I manage to say, scared out of my wits as he steps closer to me. “Out ere’ alone? Why’s that luv?” He asks me, and I can see his eyes taking in the sight of my body, soak and wet from the pool, my see through nightgown exposing me. I place my arms over my chest and he brings his eyes back up to me. “I’m here with my h-husband. We were taking a w-walk.” I stutter. “A walk in the rain? I don’t think so poppet. Besides,” He says, “You’re too young to be married.”
I back away from him, pinning my back tight against the tree. What am I going to do? My goodness, they spend their time teaching us how to sing and draw in school, when they should really be teaching us how to escape from crazed gypsy’s roaming in the woods. How am I going to get out of this one? “Don’t be scared poppet. I don’t bight…much.” He says, quietly laughing to himself, placing his hands on my arms. “Get away from me.” I yell in his face. “And don’t call me poppet!” I spit the word. “Come now luv.” He says, “No need to get rough, it’s better for you if you don’t.” He says, and forces his lips on mine. I try my hardest to escape the kiss, but with his hands placed firmly on both sides on my face, it’s impossible. He finally let’s go, and smiles at me. “Not bad,” he says, “But you could do better.” He kisses me again, and one hand slides down my body, going lower with each passing second. What am I going to do? I try to pull his hand off me, but it doesn’t budge. So I bite his lip. He backs his face away from mine, and then slaps me hard across the face. I’m ashamed when I feel tears filling my eyes. The slap stings for a minute or two, and it’s all I concentrate of as he continues to kiss me, hands still moving. I pull my head away again. “Get away, you bastard!” I yell. “They’ll be looking for me, and you’ll be sorry!” I say. He laughs. “Who will be looking luv? At this time of the night in the rain…no one will be looking for you. But in case you’re right, we’d better make this quick” He takes my nightgown and rips it in the front. I use my foot to kick him between his legs, but his hands stop me. He takes my leg and pulls it around his waist, after slapping me a second time. “I told you to be good, but you wont listen.” He says. And I close my eyes, preparing for pain. Suddenly the gypsy’s grip loosens, and then let’s go completely. I open my eyes and the gypsy in on the ground. My knees give out, and I fall beside him, sobbing. I feel someone pick me up, cradling me in their arms. “It’s okay.” The voice says over and over again. “I’m here now.” It says. And for some reason, I’ve never felt so safe. The person carries me back to the pool, and it’s only when they set me down that I stop crying. I look up to see who my savior is, and am not surprised to see Thomas staring down at me, arms around me, holding me close to him. “Here.” He says passing me my coat. I quickly wrap in around my exposed body, ashamed to be seen this way. “Are you okay?” He asks. Pulling my head onto his chest, oddly soothing me.
“Yes.” I answer in a broken voice. “How did you find me? What are you even doing out here?” I ask him. “I heard you screaming, I followed the sound, and when I seen what was going on… I- I was completely shocked. It wasn’t what I expected to find. But the shock was soon replaced with anger. I seen him hit you, and that was more than I needed, to see him hurt you like that. Knowing what he was about to do… I grabbed the biggest branch I could find, and hit him across the head. He was knocked out immediately.” He looks up, I can see a crease forming between his slanted eye brows, and I could feel his fists shaking. “It’s okay.” I say. “It’s over now.” It felt weird to be soothing him, instead of the other way around. “I know…I just…I need to calm down. It took all my strength not to kill him right there, Mary.” He said using my first name, holding me tighter. “You still didn’t answer my second question.” I say. “Oh.” He says, “I was…well, writing.” And then he pulls out a small notebook from his pocket. “Out here?” I ask. “In the rain?” He laughs. “I have a cabin not far from here; my father built it for me when I was a boy.” He said. “But never mind that. Are we to go to your head mistress or to the cops first?” He asked, abruptly serious. My eyes widen with fear. “NO!” I yell. “You cannot tell anyone. They’ll wonder what I was doing out here…what you were doing here too…” I trailed off, but he seemed to know exactly what I was saying. “You’re reputation shan’t be ruined, Mary.” He said to me, but I shook my head. “There would be too many unanswered questions. Besides, it’s over now. I don’t want to think about it anymore, let alone talk about it.” He nods understanding. “You’re bleeding.” He said, ripping off a piece of his shirt, and whipping my cheek where the gypsy kept hitting me. “Can you take me back to Smith’s?” I ask him, once he’s finished cleaning my cheek. I’d forgotten about Claire and Elizabeth probably waiting up for me. “Of course.” Thomas says. “Do you need me to carry you?” He asked. “No…I can walk.” I say. He hands me my umbrella, and takes my hand as we walk out. I do not move his hand from mine, for I know he is only trying to calm and sooth me, and its working. It is a silent walk back, but words were not needed. Still traumatized from the night’s events, yet completely calm and safe with Thomas…there was really nothing to say. He walks me up to the front door and looks at me.
“What were you doing out there?” He asks me. I sigh. I thought he wouldn’t ask this question. “Claire, Elizabeth and I went for a swim. This would explain my wet clothes.” I say, “We heard a voice, they ran back, but I stayed for my umbrella.” I say, not elaborating, for the rest was obvious. “Oh,” he says, “And you’re sure you’re okay.” “Yes.” I say, and he turns to walk away. “Thomas.” I call quietly after him. “Yes?” He asks. “Thank you.” I hug him briefly, and then he smiles and walks away. •••
Dear diary, I woke up this morning still shaking. I will not write to you what happened yesterday, for the memories will only bring me to tears again. Instead, I shall write you what Miss’s Trenchfield has us doing today. We’ve just finished lunch, and instead of returning to our
classes we are going back to the ballroom for more dancing. I’m actually a little excited this time. I shall write back soon. Bye
The ball room was filled with excited girls from every grade twirling around and around. When Claire, Elizabeth and I walked in, we didn’t twirl with the others. When I came in last night, Elizabeth and Claire both stayed in my room waiting for me. Since I told them everything that happened, they’ve been just as timid as me. Elizabeth is the worst though. She thinks it’s her fault for bringing us out there in the middle of the night. I didn’t think me telling them what really happened would bring their spirits down so much, if I’d known it was to be like this- I wouldn’t have told them anything. Almost every teacher here at Smith’s private school is here to supervise and join in the fun. I too, think it shall be fun, if only Elizabeth and Claire would cheer up. Miss’s Bangs explains the rules: pick a partner, switch roles when I say, follow the steps I’ve taught you…blah, blah, blah. I partner with Elizabeth as usual, Claire with Jessica, Victoria with Meggie this time, Laura with Beth, and Chelsea with one of the younger girls, since our class has an uneven number of students. The music starts to play… “And- one two three, one two three…” Miss’s Bangs counts over and over, keeping us in time. I start by playing the role of the man this time, hoping that if I mess up again, everyone will have the rest of the afternoon to forget about it. Yes. If I’m going to mess up, it may as well be right away. “I’m still very sorry, Mary.” Elizabeth says to me while dancing as gracefully as always. “It’s not your fault Elizabeth. If I’d had just gone with you…” I shake my head, trying to dismiss the images. “Besides, I had Thomas.” I say. “Yes. So you did. But I’m still sorry.” She says smiling. And I laugh. Things are getting to be lighter between us, and I hope it keeps up. Luckily, even with my lack of paying attention to my feet, and my steps, I did not mess up this time. When Miss’s Bangs tells us to switch roles, Elizabeth looks at me surprised. “You did it!” she says. “I didn’t mess anything up!” I yell, and we meet in an embrace. Things are defiantly looking up.
Half way through, Miss’s Bangs tells us to take a break. Excitement instantaneously rises again when Miss’s Trenchfield leads the other teachers with trays of food and deserts. Each group takes a table that has been set up, and seat themselves with their classmates and friends. Our class is small enough for everyone to share a table together. Fantastic, I get to eat with Victoria and her posy, just like every morning at breakfast, every lunch and every dinner. How splendid. The up-side to this arrangement is that I am still with my friends, in addition to this, the deserts look marvelous. I pick my way through the trays, getting ample enough to eat. Victoria looks at me with disgust when she see’s the amount of food on my plate. “I don’t understand how she stays so thin when she eats like a pig every meal.” Victoria tells Meggie, talking as if I wasn’t sitting right in front of her. “I’m sorry, Victoria. Was there something you wanted to say to me?” I ask with a fake smile on my face, doing my best not to cause a scene. “Why no Mary, I’ve nothing to say to you.” She says rudely, and Laura and Claire laugh. They resemble robots, I think, laughing at Victoria’s command, doing everything she tells them to. It’s downright pathetic. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask her, not taking a care to the volume of my voice. No one from the other tables have taken a notice to us yet, though. Not even the teachers. “I do not associate with trash” She says. “Sure you do.” I say, “You site beside it everyday.” I indicate Laura and Meggie. They look appalled when they realize who I meant. Claire and Elizabeth now laugh. “You and your friends think you are so clever and so well liked. You don’t realize that you look like idiots.” Victoria pauses, “Even Thomas says so.” This hurts. I know it shouldn’t, and I shouldn’t really care. Probably it’s not true anyway; probably Victoria said it to purposely hurt me. Well she did her job. It hurt; it hurt like a knife to my heart. Thomas was my friend, he saved my life. To hear Victoria say that he thinks I’m an idiot, defiantly hurts. “Just like he thinks you’re too clingy.” Elizabeth says. “I’m his cousin Victoria, I know him better than you do. Better yet, I know when you’re lying.” Elizabeth’s comment brings me at ease, and the hole in my chest disappears. What brings me to greater contentment is to see that Victoria is speechless. Her half-witted friends, nonetheless, are not. “You don’t know half the things you think you do, Elizabeth.” Meggie says. “Neither do you, Mary.” I note that she doesn’t say anything
to Claire. Of course not. Claire wouldn’t say anything to them either. Coward. “Really Meggie. I know of a certain girl sneaking out doing the most unmentionable things with a certain low class worker!” I yell, and now the other girls turn their attention to us. Meggie looks shocked, but neither of the girls gives up. They don’t want to lose a second time. “Blubber.” Laura says. “Queer.” Elizabeth spits back. “Half-wit” Victoria finally jumps in. “Harlot!” Claire yells too loudly. But I’m proud of her for defending us, and by the smile on Elizabeth’s face, she’s happy too. “Ladies!” We all jump at the sound of Miss’s Trenchfield’s angry voice. And trust me; you wouldn’t like her angry voice. “Is this the way we’ve taught you to behave? I think not. Tonight after mass, you six girls,” She indicates, Elizabeth, Claire, Victoria, Laura, Meggie and I, “shall stay with me for detention and pray for the Lord’s forgiveness.” She speaks so loudly that the entire school is our audience, and I blush in embarrassment. Well this is blinking tremendous. Detention with Victoria and her bloody windbag friends. I think to myself, finishing my desert that no longer tastes so sweet. As soon as our break ends, and we’re finished with our food, we gather in front of Miss’s Bangs. Apparently she has a surprise for us. Not that some of us deserve it, according to Miss’s Trenchfield. “Ladies, I’ve invited the men from Briar Academy to join us today for the last half of the dance lesson. Gentlemen.” At their call, the men from Briar Academy are lead into the room by Henry (I think that’s his name.) Among them are the only two men I know from there, Ben and Thomas. My heart leaps and a smile lights my face. “The gentlemen here shall pick their partner, and you shall all practice the dance with them.” Miss’s Bangs explains. She explains further, but I do not listen. I’ve only eyes for both Ben and Thomas. Thomas looks at me with concern. ‘You okay?’ he mouths to me. I nod my head to say yes, and with that Thomas turns to Miss’s Bangs to listen to the rest of her speech. I turn my head to Ben. He’s smiling at me, and my first reaction is to smile back. How could I not? His smile is completely infectious. I’d almost forgotten the flowers he’d sent me yesterday. I shall have to thank him for that, and now I get to do it in person. I am pleased when Ben walks over to me, choosing me to be his partner over all the other girls here. At Miss’s Bangs’ leave, he puts his hand on my waist, and holds my hand with the other, while I place my hand on his shoulder. My smile broadens when this happens, Ben see’s
this and smile’s back. Miss’s Bangs plays the music and we start to dance. I try my best to follow his lead. It would be much to embarrassing to mess up while dancing with him. This is truly hard to do; for I am not looking at my feet to make sure of my steps…I can only look at him. “Thank you for the bouquet.” I say lamely. “The roses were quite lovely.” He smiles again. “I’m glad you liked them Miss Thorn. I was nervous, I didn’t know if you’d think I was a fool or romantic.” He says, blushing a little. “Really?” I ask, surprised to hear him say that. “I thought it was awfully thoughtful…” “I’m glad.” He says, spinning me gently, and to my great astonishment, I did not fall. I see Elizabeth dancing with a handsome man, and she looks at me with a vast smile on her face. I scan the room to find Claire. I see her with a tall and handsome man, though she doesn’t look as happy as Elizabeth, she seems happy enough, and I am happy for her. As I turn my head back to look at Ben again, I spot Victoria dancing with Thomas. Neither of them looking too happy. Victoria must still be outraged by our argument. Well good, she deserves it. I change my thoughts as quick as I can. I don’t want to ruin this great experience by thinking about Victoria. Luckily, I have Ben for that. “I like you Mary, you’re special.” He says suddenly, taking me by surprise. I blush instantly. “Thank you Mister Kingston…I’m pleased you think so…I- I like you too.” I say looking down. He takes my chin in his hand to make me face him. “Do you?” He asked. Is he serious? That’s like asking if there is a sun in the sky. OF COURSE I DO! I wanted to yell to him, but I composed myself quickly to say it nicer. “Yes, I do…a lot.” I admit. He seems pleased and smiles at me, never removing his gaze from mine. “So do I, Miss Thorn, so do I.” He said. For the rest of the afternoon we didn’t talk about our feelings for each other, alternatively, we talked mostly about the concert, and his role in the Oliver Twist musical. He is very pleased with himself to have gotten the part, and I can’t say that I blame him. We talked about the ball too. It’s to be a masquerade, and we discussed what kind of masks we were going to wear. Ben did most of the talking, I mostly listened…I was probably too nervous to talk.
Also, I did not mess up, bless the angels. We danced and talked without interruptions, and through it all, the only thought I’m left with is: ballroom dancing…might not be so bad after all. •••
He said it. Ben actually told me he liked me. I couldn’t believe it! And that isn’t the only good news; my parents have sent me another new gown for the Christmas concert, this time. With all the good news, I was easily distracted during my detention Tuesday night. Things have settled down a lot with Victoria, but some tension still stands. Now it’s time for me to be off to class…choir awaits me!
The rest of the week had passed quickly. They say time fly’s when you’re having fun; well, whoever they are, they were right. Smith’s Christmas ball is fast approaching; we’ve been planning, decorating, dancing and choir on top of it all. And though we’ve been so busy, I was able to see Ben ALOT this week, for which I am thankful for. Ben and I haven’t had much conversation yet, but I loved every second I was able to spend with him. He even asked me to his musical debut in March. Of course I gladly accepted without hesitation, and he seemed pleased. He told me of the people he’s been working with and of the song’s he’s to sing in the Oliver Twist musical. He even gave me a little preview. He’s a very talented singer, even lots of other people say so…he told me. Besides my time spent with Ben, I’ve had plenty of fun with Claire and Elizabeth as well; planning our hair style, masks, and gowns for the ball. It’s been a regular girl’s week. One friend, though, that I did not get to talk to again was Thomas. Victoria made damned sure that we didn’t go near each other. She’s been acting weird lately when it comes to Thomas and I. She’s probably threatened. Stupid girl. I’ve only eyes for Ben, and Thomas only has eyes for her. She shouldn’t feel so insecure. Claire and I enter late to the classroom. Lucky for us class wasn’t yet put in session. We find the entire class huddled around Victoria and Elizabeth. There’s a link between those girls, and he’s the only word that escapes my mouth before I run over. Thomas. I was right, of course. I join in the circle, sitting beside Claire, taking in every comment. I do not understand a thing. 88
“Will he be okay?” One girl asked. “How long will he be in the hospital?” That was Jessica’s voice. “Have you two gone to visit him yet?” Another inquired. All these questions pointed to both Victoria and Elizabeth, giving me no answers of my own. What could have happened to him? I have a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach…that can’t be good. I need to know now. “I’m so very pleased to be included in this conversation.” I say sarcastically, hoping they get the point and tell me what’s going on with Thomas. “It doesn’t concern you!” Victoria says a little too sternly. “Of course it does, Mary and Thomas have become good friends!” Elizabeth says, defending me again. “So I noticed.” Victoria says under her breath, and only I hear her. What was her problem? I’ve no time for her silly games right now anyway, so I ignore the uncalled-for comment, and turn my attention to Elizabeth. “Mary, he’s become very ill. A serious case of pneumonia, the doctors say. He’ll be stuck in the hospital for a while. I don’t know if he’ll be able to attend the Christmas concert. One thing is for sure though, he shall not be attending our ball.” Elizabeth says. I’m sure Victoria is pouting of account of Elizabeth’s last statement, but I cannot be sure. I don’t turn my head. I don’t move an inch; I do not say a word. A serious case of pneumonia the doctors said. I know of pneumonia, though in most cases it passes without damage, sometimes, in very rare cases-when it is serious…people die. Will Thomas die? Exactly how bad was it? He won’t be attending the ball…but what was that to me? He might not be at our concert…he might not be with us again. “Mary…Mary!” I snap out of my trance at Claire’s call. “Are you okay?” Elizabeth asks me. “Have you seen him?” I ask her, completely ignoring her question. “No…no one has yet, but his own immediate family.” Elizabeth answers. “I plan on seeing him as soon as possible.” Victoria says, as if it mattered. “So do I, and my family…” Elizabeth says, and then suddenly looks at me. “You know what would be great Mary,” she begins again, “if you would come. I’m sure he’s in need of seeing his friends.” Victoria looks as if she’s about to object. I can’t say that I disagree with that motion. “I-I don’t know, Elizabeth…it seems that he needs his family.” I say, but she won’t have it.
“Victoria is not his family,” Elizabeth says, and I could tell this was said to purposely annoy Victoria. It probably did…it never takes much. “We’ll see.” I say, and she hugs me too tightly. “He’ll be so pleased!” She says to me. But the truth is, I don’t know if I want to go. What will he think of me going there, what will his family think? Wouldn’t it be kind of wired, a school girl not even that well acquainted with him, going to visit with his family? I don’t know if I want to see him anyway. And yes, that does sound rude, but I don’t mean it in a rude way. What I really mean is, I don’t know if I can handle seeing him sick like that, in a hospital. I’ve never been good at that stuff. This newfound news keeps my mind busy with questions and thoughts for the rest of the day. I feel a bit better though when Miss’s Trenchfield makes the announcement that our class shall go to the hospital tomorrow to visit him. “It’s the least we can do for all the trouble he’s gone to with helping us prepare for the concert.” She had said. She even passed along a card for all of us to sing so we can give it to him tomorrow, along with a bouquet of flowers. Miss’s Trenchfield does have a big heart, no one can deny that. And I think her idea of all of us visiting him is inspiring. Ben Kingston shall be accompanying us as well on this trip tomorrow. And as happy as that news would normally make me…all I care about right now is Thomas getting better. • The hospital where Thomas was being held was huge. Though it looked and smelled like any other hospital, it was indeed larger than most. I do not know how the staff here manages to get around without getting lost. Miss’s Trenchfield leads the way to a desk where a lady dressed in a purple dress, much too tight for her plump body. But judging by her smile and the nice way she greeted us, she was probably a very courteous lady. “Thomas Benet.” Miss’s Trenchfield states the name slowly for clear pronunciation. “Third floor, room 306.” The lady told us, still smiling as we pass her by. We all follow Miss’s Trenchfield up the stairs, Ben on one side of me, Elizabeth on the other, and Claire on the other side of Elizabeth. Since our arrival to the hospital, no one has said a word; except Victoria, of course. “I don’t understand why everyone had to come. It’s insulting really; half these girls don’t even know him.” She complained the whole time, making sure Miss’s Trenchfield doesn’t here her remarks. Though all the
girls have, and she’s earned plenty of glares from each one at every different comment. We finally reach the third floor, after a ridiculous amount of climbing. We find the room 306, knock on the door, and enter at Thomas’s call-Thomas’s weak call. It is then when I hesitate to walk in. I sometimes get sick when I see anyone deathly ill. I do not want to make a scene. But I do want to see Thomas. And so I enter, with Ben hands placed gently at the soft of my back, making sure no one is behind us or looking back to see this defecation. Victoria hands Thomas the flowers and the cards. She insisted on doing so, for she claimed to know him the most. I recall Elizabeth about to object, but she didn’t…too bad. Thomas opens the card and reads ever name and ever message slowly and carefully, making sure to get each one. “Thank you very much, ladies. This is wonderful, you shouldn’t have.” He says, once finished. And we all murmur our ‘your very welcome.’ Or ‘my pleasure’. “You will not be coming to the ball then?” Victoria asks, for the fifth time, later on. “I’ve told you already, Victoria, I’ll be in the hospital for a week. I shall not be attending the ball. Sorry.” He says, not sounding very sorry at all. And instead of pouting, like I thought Victoria would have done, she just muttered, “That’s too bad.” And walked to the back of the group standing with Ben and Meggie. “How are you?” I ask him, leaning softly against his bed. “Sick, but happy to have a little company.” He gives a weak smile, staring at the key hanging from my neck; and I smile back. I’d forgotten the key I’d gotten from him was still there, he’s probably wondering what I’m doing with it around my neck. Well I can’t worry about that now, he’s sick. Poor guy. “I hope it isn’t too serious…I mean, you will be better soon?” I ask, I wasn’t going to, but I couldn’t help it. No one has asked that question yet, and I wasn’t going to sit around at Smith’s and listen to Victoria’s gossip to get my answers. To my surprise he gives a little laugh, although not throwing his head back like he usually does. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” He says, “Like I told Victoria, I shall be out in a week, I will at least be there for the concert.” He says, giving a wink, and I laugh. He’s going to be okay. I let out a sigh of relief. “Well that’s good then. I imagine Elizabeth will be happy to hear you say so.” I say, beckoning Elizabeth to come on over.
“Hello cousin.” Elizabeth says teasingly. I’m happy they’ve become so close, almost like brother and sister. It was cute. “Elizabeth.” He nods his head slightly giving a little smile. “He’s to be out of here in a week.” I announce, and Elizabeth’s smile grows. It’s no surprise when she jumps on him to give him a hug. “Ow!” Thomas shouts, “Can’t…breathe…Eli.” “Sorry.” She apologizes, and I see Victoria giving a displeased look our way. That’s nice. Jealous of his own cousin…She really has problems. “So did Victoria freak out, or what?” Elizabeth asks him, a little too upfront. “For what?” Thomas asks confused, and so am I. “For you not being able to attend our grand ball.” She roles her eyes while saying the last two words. “She didn’t seem to mind.” Thomas answers indifferently, and Elizabeth roles her eyes once more. “Ladies!” Miss’s Trenchfield calls, “Our visit must come to an end, Thomas has family that would like to see him, say your good-byes, and we’ll be off.” Well, I must say, we do our visiting fast here. It feels as if I’ve been here for two minutes. Of course Victoria took up half the time talking to him alone, the scoundrel. “Well Thomas, I hope you’re feeling better soon, it was good seeing you cousin.” Elizabeth says, holding back the urge to hug him again. He smiles and thanks her. “Well, I guess…” I start but get cut off immediately by the one and only…Victoria. “Oh Thomas, I hate that we must part so soon.” She says, rather pathetically. I take this as my cue too leave, so I shoot Thomas one last smile, but he doesn’t smile back, he looks rather angry, on top of exhausted. I do not want to hear Victoria talk all lovey-dovey with Thomas, so I walk as fast as I can until I am out of ear shot. My goodness, I’ve never met a ruder girl. Could she not tell I was talking? Of course she could, that’s exactly why she cut in, not allowing me to say another word to him. I meet up with Ben at the door; he’s talking to two very attractive older people, whom I’m guessing to be a couple. “Oh Mary, there you are,” He says, taking my hand; and suddenly all my bitter thoughts have left me. “These are Thomas’s parents. Miss’s Rose Benet, and Mister Scott Benet. And this…” he says, pulling the arm of a somewhat younger man, “this is Frank, Thomas’s older brother.” I shake all of their hands, “nice to meet you all.” I say, “I hear Thomas will be out within a week, that must be wonderful for you all.” I say, making polite conversation.
“Oh yes,” His mother says, sounding sweet, “We’ve been so worried for him. You are one of the choir girls, no? Mary, that’s what you said Ben?” “Yes ma’am, Mary Thorn.” He says, stating my name for me. “How very nice to meet you dear, Thomas has told be a little about you…been giving him trouble have you?” She asks, still smiling and I am caught for words…how embarrassing. She seems to notice my face turning red, and she laughs. “Good, Thomas needs a girl like you to put him in his place.” She says. Did she not realize that I am with Ben; can she not see Victoria over there with Thomas? “Well, it was nice to meet you Mary.” They all take their turns saying good bye. And I can hear Miss’s Benet says something in a distasteful voice as she walks away. “Is that Victoria?” She asked, and then sighed. It seems Victoria’s bad reputation lives outside the school as well as inside. Finally, when Victoria finishes her goodbyes to Thomas, Miss’s Trenchfield leads us out of the hospital the same way we came in. Only this time, Ben and I stay at the back of the line, holding each other’s hands the whole way… •••
Dear diary, For something I started out dreading, I sure am excited for it now. Our exalted ball is tomorrow…TOMORROW! I can barely contain my enthusiasm to attend a ball with the man of my dreams. Okay, that may be pushing it, but I warned you I was dramatic, didn’t I? Well, lunch hour is almost over, I must be off to the ballroom with the rest of the school.
The school of girls is once again being held in the ballroom for last minute preparations. Shortly after our visit to see Mr. Thomas Benet in the hospital, people forgot about his pneumonia. It’s sad to say, bit it is true. Even Elizabeth and I have spent less time talking (or worrying) about Thomas, and more time getting excited about the ball. It seems to be everyone’s only interest…and I can’t blame them. We walk into the ball room and I am completely blown away. It looks picturesque, radiant, and simply divine. Beautiful decorations left and right. On every wall, hanging from the roof, even on the placed tables…charming decorations making this room look as brilliant as ever. Every single girl here is standing still, looking around in all directions, staring in bewilderment at the ballroom. I gather that the ballroom shall be much like Smith’s own beauty: graceful by day phenomenal by night. And all at once I am even more excited for tomorrow night than before…a sensation which I hadn’t thought possible. I look up and see our ‘glowing balloons’ hanging from the ceiling. They do look rather charming up there…I cannot wait to see them glowing in the dark. And the mastermind behind all this beauty is the lovely Miss’s Trenchfield looks proud of what we’ve done. “Welcome ladies. What do you think?” She asks us, smiling. Instead of all of us speaking at once, throwing compliments her way, we all start clapping and cheering as loudly as we can. “I’m glad you think so.” She says after the noise died down. “It is thanks to all of you that this room looks as grand as it does.” She says. “Rather, Miss’s Trenchfield, that it is thanks to you.” Victoria says. And although her allegation is true, she no doubt only said it to suck up as she always does. For some odd reason, the teachers do not see the
unsightly rogue that we do. Instead, they see a charming, graceful and polite young lady that Victoria believes to be herself. What a joke. “Why thank you, Victoria, it was quite nice of you to say so. But every single one of us here has contributed a great deal to this project, and I am very proud of you all.” We all break out in applause once again, thanking our head mistress for her kind words. But we were not sent here to listen to our head mistress compliment us all day; obviously we’re here for another reason completely. “Now, your work isn’t done, we still have plenty of things to do,” She continues, and I know I was right…more work for the ball. “Today, you girls shall be spending most of your time in the kitchen.” She finishes. The kitchen? Well, I don’t see her laughing, so I suppose she is serious. I knew we were to have sweets and plenty of other food at the ball, but I thought the kitchen maids were to take care of that; I guess I was wrong. Miss’s Trenchfield explains to us that each class shall be separated into groups, each one of us something different to contribute. We have a lot to do so we get started right away. I didn’t quite pay attention to what the other groups shall have to be doing, but ours is in charge of cupcakes. I’ve never been more thrilled in my life to bake. This won’t be the first time that I’ve baked cupcakes… actually; you could call be an expert by now. Back home, (not that I am there very often, besides holidays.), you can always find me in the kitchen with our cook, baking delicious deserts. Cupcakes were always my favorite to make, partly because decorating then is so fun. I do not waste time and gather our supplies at once. 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour 1 1/3 cups sugar 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup shortening 1 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 large eggs (Not to mention all the sprinkles and frosting we’ll be using for our décor) Everyone watches me as I set myself to work. “We’re supposed to wait for Anne to help us.” Victoria whines; a sound I’ve grown accustomed to, for that’s all she does, but it never ceases to annoy me. “Why waste time?” I say smiling, and the other girls gather around me, listening to my instructions, helping me out. Two hundred cupcakes
have to be baked and decorated by the end of the day. So counting out Victoria, Meggie and Laura, who refuse to participate so they won’t get into trouble; I separate the rest of us (though we aren’t many) into two groups. The first groups will bake the cupcakes, and the second one will decorate them. After the first one hundred are done and decorated, we shall switch roles. The girls seem to be enthused at the project and admiring of my new found leader skills. ‘Mary Thorn, taking over kitchens everywhere.’ Not a bad title, if I do say so myself. We’re all working hard, getting things done properly, finished with fifty cupcakes when Anne rushes in. “Sorry lassies, I had to clean up in the sun room. Thos younglings can make a mess, I tell ye.” She says, looking us over to see what we’ve been up too. She pikes up one of the finished cupcakes and turns it around examining it from every angle possible. “Which one o’ ye did these?” She asks. “It was all of them!” Victoria points to our group, trying to get us all in trouble. “But if we’re going to blame one person, blame Mary. It was her idea. Meggie, Laura and I had nothing to do with it.” She says. And I cannot say these accusations surprise me. I was waiting for it, actually. “Aye, I can tell.” Anne says, and Victoria wears her victory smile.” These look delicious, I’ll have to try one, just to be sure.” She says, and this has suddenly become one of the most memorable moments here at Smith’s. To see Victoria’s face fall like that…priceless. Anne bites through the cupcake in her hand and makes a loud ‘mmmmm’ sound, and I know we did well. “These are delicious!” She says, “Congratulations lassies, and way to go Marry, for leadin’ the group. Thank ye.” She claps her hands lightly, and we soon all join in the applause. “Now, we mustn’t waste time, get back to what ye were doin’. Chop, chop!” And with that, we all resume our work, with Victoria and her friends joining the opposite group from us. With that alteration, we got Jessica and Beth in exchange, which I can tell you, is not a fair trade… for the other team. I laugh my own private devilish laugh. Before we know it, we finish one hundred cupcakes and we switch work roles. I could almost jump for joy. And afternoon of decorating cupcakes, how fantastic is that? The other team did not do that much of a great job, but my group can fix that. The first batch of cupcakes in made, and the girls and I go all out. Soon enough, the tables in the kitchen are filled with brightly colored cupcakes, with deviating designs and sprinkles everywhere. We sure were doing a great job. Anne seemed very pleased with our work, and I feel proud. We’re just finishing up the last twenty, about, cupcakes when Victoria opens her big mouth again. Why, I do not know, for it is always she who gets burned. But hey, I guess persistency is a mostly a good quality. Probably the only one she has. The weird thing is, her question
wasn’t even mean, it sounded mean. But from what I could gather, it couldn’t really be. “Mary?” She had asked, “Is your Ben going to attend our ball tomorrow night?” What a stupid question, every single person in the school knew very well that he had asked me weeks ago. It got me wondering what she could possibly be up to. “You know very well that we are going together, Victoria.” I spit her name. But she doesn’t get mad, she turns to her friends and they start to giggle. What was wrong with her? “Why do you ask?” I press, wanting to get to the bottom of her strange behavior. “I was simply wondering.” She says in all innocence. And though she’s not said anything wrong, I’ve never wanted to ring her neck harder in my life. ``Do your job, Victoria!` Jessica says, annoyed with Victoria as well. I feel that Jessica and I could become very good friends. We are getting there, mind you, it will not be long now until she sticks with Claire, Elizabeth and I. it would be great to have another member in the group. • Because of Victoria, I’ve not been able to concentrate all day. She was all I could think about…her and her odd ways. Why does she insist on tormenting me so? Probably she only said that to make me wonder. That explanation seems to be the only logical thing going through my mind… she said it to distract, to get me all wound up. That had to be it. The other logic in my head had to be wrong. If fact, it wasn’t even logic, it was me overreacting again, thinking up scenarios that couldn’t possibly happen…Or, I hope so anyway. •••
17The Christmas ball
Dear diary, It’s been a long morning, that much I can say. No interest besides the ball has peeked into any girl that attends this school…not even the teachers. We have many guests coming tonight, and every one is exited. Briar Academy, family and friends, country clubs all over; I can only imagine how packed our ball room shall be. It will be grand. I’ve actually never attended a ball before. In fact, only Meggie, Elizabeth and Victoria have ever been to any. And the fact that this is my first, and I’m going with Ben Kingston, makes this the ultimate experience. But I have to get ready now. I’ll write back tomorrow.
I never thought this moment would arrive. Today has been possibly the slowest day in the history of slow days. I was practically going insane counting every slow second that passed. By lunch, every girl in school had become very restless, and, to put it plainly, very bitchy. But because of your restlessness, Miss’s Trenchfield has given us the afternoon off to prepare ourselves for this evening’s event. Elizabeth, Claire and I intended to use our time wisely. Spending more time on our appearance than ever before. Each one of us trying to impress a boy we like. Elizabeth had joined Claire and I in our room (it just seemed easier this way), and we all helped each other prepare ourselves. Elizabeth even brought her lovely smelling scent, sent by her aunt from France. We shall all smell exquisite. On top of that, each of us having curled our hair, rubbing roses to our cheeks for color, and wearing our best gown and shoes. The gown my parents sent me is perfect. It fits perfect, it looks perfect, and it feels perfect. I’ve never been more pleased with my appearance, which is saying something, for I am never entirely pleased with my appearance. My gown is somewhat puffy at the bottom; it goes to my feet and drags a little behind in the back. It is gold and white, and strapless, fitting at the top, and a little sparkly, and open back. I’ve decided once again to wear my diamond necklace, only I’m not wearing gloves this time. My mask only covers around my eyes, so anyone who
saw me could still tell who I was. It was white and sparkly with little gold designs on the ends. Claire and Elizabeth look stunning as well, as I’m sure everyone else coming will. And so the moment I’ve been waiting for weeks for is finally here. I am being escorted to the ball room with the most handsome man here. He’s wearing a gray suit tonight, with a black tie and a gray mask. He is well groomed as always, and I could barely take my eyes off him. And with that I start to panic again. Why would he ask me to a ball? He’s handsome and rich and talented, and I’m…well…me. I try my best not to dwell on my negative thoughts for long. I am here with him and that’s all I want to focus on for now. Arms linked, we enter the ballroom. I immediately look up to find that I was right about the glowing balloons. They look extravagant glowing in the dark, hanging from the ceiling. The other decorations look great too. I could see a couple of people admiring them. Ben steps in front of me, and takes my hand. “May I have this dance, Miss Thorn?” He asked, smiling. “Why yes you may Mister Kingston.” I say giving a little playful curtsy before following him out to the crowded dance floor. We place ourselves in position, spread apart as much is as appropriate, and he leads me in a dance. I try not to think about my steps this time. I seem to do better when I don’t think. We take steps and turn, gliding across the floor. I spot Claire with Jessie Tigers, and I’ve never seen a bigger smile on her face. I feel warm at the thought of her possibly finding happiness with him, much like my own with Ben. “You look beautiful.” Ben says to me, startling me out of my thoughts. “That’s because part of my face is hidden.” I joke, and he laughs. This is perfect. I think to myself. “No. Really, you’re stunning.” He says, becoming serious again. I want to make another bad joke, I’m not good with serious. Serious gets me nervous. But no matter what, if I say something it will only make me look dumber than I already do. “I…uh…you look fantastic too.” I say hanging my head for my stupidity. Of course I have to make myself sound like an idiot while he’s complimenting me. Snap out of it Mary or you’ll drive him away. “Thank you.” He says, kissing my hand, and then I realize the song is over. That was quick. He keeps my hand in his and walks me to a table where Elizabeth and her date are sitting. Why can’t I remember his name? Jake…John? “James.” It’s Elizabeth talking to him, answering my question. “Could you be a dear and get me a drink?” She asks him.
“Certainly.” James Franklin says before scampering off to get Elizabeth her drink. “Hello Mary, Ben. Lovely ball isn’t it?” She asks over exaggerating on her politeness. “Yes.” Ben says, watching her carefully, probably making sure she’s not about to say anything rude like the last time. “You ladies did a lovely job.” He says. He then looks at his watch and looks around a little bit. “Well, if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go have a cigar with the gentlemen in the next room. I won’t be long Mary.” He says, standing up. “Oh…sure.” I say, and he leaves. Suddenly Victoria walks over here and takes a seat next to me. “Excuse me?” I ask her. “Are you lost?” Maybe she can’t recognize me through my mask. Odd. “Why no Mary, I spotted you, Elizabeth and Ben here so I decided to come say hello.” She says. “Well you did, now you can go.” Elizabeth says, probably wondering the same thing as I: ‘What is she up to?’ “Wow, it didn’t take long for you to scare Ben away Mary. Not that I’m surprised.” She says to me. Bang! There it is the reason for her coming over here…to torture me. Well I’m not going to let Victoria ruin my perfect night. “No, actually. He’s just out having a cigar.” I say, turning to Elizabeth, hoping Victoria will take the hint and leave. She does. “Well, lovely to chat with you. Or rather not. But I’ll be nice anyway. Enjoy the rest of your night.” Then she looks directly at me, smiling, and walks away. “Don’t listen to her Mary. If anything you deserve better than Ben, not the other way around. You couldn’t scare any man off if you tried.” She says, trying to make me feel better. “I don’t care about Victoria.” I say, “She’s petty, and I want this to be a night to remember. No more silly girl games.” James comes back with two drinks in his hands. “There you are my dear.” He says to Elizabeth, setting down a drink in front of her. “Thank you James.” She says, taking a sip of her drink. “Mmmm.” She says, “This is delicious. Mary, try this.” Elizabeth shoves the cup into my hands. I take the cup, and sip from it too. She’s right, it is delicious. “Oh!” Elizabeth jumps up. “How rude of me. I haven’t introduced you two.” She says indicating me and James. “Mary, this is James Franklin, James, this is Marry Thorn. My best friend.” She says smiling. “Nice to meet you.” He says, shaking my hand.
“Like whys.” I say distracted. “I think I’ll go get myself one of these drinks though. You were right Eli, these are great. Excuse me.” I scoot out of my chair and make my way over to the refreshment table. The truth was I was nervous. Did Ben leave because I was boring him? It didn’t seem that way. He was being so sweet, and yet distracted somehow. But I was distracted too, though I won’t say why. Oh well, I shall try to relax. Ben isn’t a jerk, so I shouldn’t be either. I sigh when I reach the refreshment table. I take a sip of the punch and then lay my cup down on the table. It was when I turned back around that I saw him. A tall, pale and dark haired man walking my way. And even though his black mask covered half his face, he still took my breath away. He comes closer still, never taking his gaze off me, and I fear I could not turn away from him if I tried. “Good evening Miss.” He says is a raspy, attractive voice. A greeting. That’s all. But even so, that greeting is what’s making my heart beat faster then ever before. “Good evening Sir.” I reply with a small curtsy, and all the while wondering how I’ve never met him before. “Pray tell, what is your name luv?” He asks me. I can feel my knees buckling beneath me. I can’t just forget about Ben. I couldn’t do that to anyone, but… God he’s handsome. “Miss Thorn-umm, Miss Mary Thorn.” I answer him. He smiles at this…a most intoxicating smile, with white teeth to match his pale skin. “Well, Miss Thorn,” He says, “Would you care to dance?” He kneels on one knee while he asks this. I put my hand to my chest as if that could slow my heart rate. Then I looked to where Ben walked through; pretty sure he won’t be back for a while. Even so…I shouldn’t, I really shouldn’t. But I will, and I know it. It’s not even a question. Besides, Ben left me. Not the other way around. I turn to my mysterious man and say with a smile: “It will be my pleasure.” I say, and his gorgeous smile broadens. He takes my hand, softly wrapping his fingers around mine; and leads me to the middle of the floor. A new song is being played, I don’t even know what dance this is, or what steps to take; but it doesn’t even matter. All I could do is stare into those sparkling blue eyes. The most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. He puts his hand around my waist and pulls me close. A little closer than is allowed, but no one notices, so I don’t object, and we start to dance. I feel a surge of electricity run through my body at his touch, and suddenly I don’t remember anything. Who I am, where I am…nothing at
all. Because it doesn’t matter. All I care about right now is being here with…um, with… Who was he? I want to ask, but I don’t even know if I can remember how to speak. Eventually I try anyway. “You know my name, “I finally manage to say, “It’s only fair that I know yours.” His hand tightens around my waist, and he pulls me even closer. His face leaning down towards mine, and for one brilliant moment, I think he is going to kiss me. That would have been inappropriate and frowned upon by all, of course; Not that I would care at the moment. But he didn’t kiss me. Instead he puts his lips to my ear and whispers: “It’s a secret.” He pulls his head back, his eyes never leaving mine. And then…the song is over. NO! I’m not ready for the song to be over. I’m not sure I’d ever have been ready for the song to be over. Why couldn’t we have been dancing to a never ending song? I try my hardest to keep the disappointment from showing on my face. As far as I know, it’s very likely that I failed. He kneels down again, lifts my hand slightly and gives it a little kiss. “It has been a great pleasure, Mary.” He says. And before I could respond, he walks away, disappearing into the crowd. Mary. He called me Mary. Men are not supposed to address women so informally; it’s very improper. And yet. My name had never sounded so good. • I get back to the table where I left Elizabeth and Mr. Franklin. They left, of course. Probably off dancing. And I start to wonder if my mysterious man really existed. Had I just imagined it all? It all seems so surreal now that I think about it. But it also seemed so real at the same time. Is that even possible? Suddenly I remember a certain someone again. Ben. I’d forgotten about him; and seeing how he is not back yet, he’s forgotten about me as well. I am left sitting alone, pathetically pouting, when Laura comes over. “Have you seen Victoria?” She asks me.
“Why on earth would you ask me? Go away.” I say. I am not in the mood to deal with Victoria or any of her half-witted friends. “She was with you a while ago.” She says to me. “Well I don’t know where she is now. You can go find your queen yourself!” I yell, and a couple of people from another table stare at me. I’m too tired to tell them to turn around and mind their own business. The ball has barely begun and I am exhausted and confused. Will Ben come back? I hope so. Who was that man? Was he even real? I haven’t seen Claire yet…I hope she’s still having fun with Mr. Tigers. And Thomas…is he wishing he was here right now with Victoria? I feel bad that he had to miss such an important event. Everyone seems to be here. Except for my family of course. They apparently had another engagement to follow through with. But I shall not complain. After all, they’re the ones who bought my gown…Both my gowns. I turn around at a tap on my shoulder. “Sorry it took so long…I was, uh…busy.” He says, taking a seat beside me. “Oh that’s alright. What did you go do?” I asked him, curios. “I was out having a cigar with one of my buddies, when Greg comes in (another friend of mine) asking for help. Apparently he had been dancing with some guy’s girl. And he wanted him to pay for it.” “Oh my.” I say sincerely sympathetic and interested. He gives a little laugh. “No, don’t worry, we talked it over. Everything is fine.” He says. “You lost your tie.” I note. “Oh yeah, It got a little hot in the room, I had my shirt unbuttoned too. Luckily I remembered that.” He says, and I laugh. Abruptly, silently, he stands up, taking my hand again…clearly a sing that he wants to dance. I do not object. • While dancing with Ben, I have plenty of time to look around and the people dancing around us. I do not recognize most of them, for there are a great amount of people here. Possibly the most amount of people in one room that I’ve seen in my life. After Ben spins me, I see Jessica, looking lovely in her light blue gown. I see that she is dancing with the young man that I saw her with the day we made the glowing balloons. They make a good couple, and I can see they both think so too by the smile on their faces. Ben spins me again, and this time I spot Miss Logan. She’s dancing too, with a man that looks familiar. I know his name, it’s at the tip of my tongue.
''Would you look at that.'' Ben says, breaking my concentration. ''Henry’s found a girlfriend. '' He says, and I suddenly remember who the man is. Sir Henry Laird. ''That’s our librarian.'' I say. ''Really? '' He says, ''It seems our Henry has taken a liking to her.'' He’s right. I look at his face, and I’ve never seen anyone smile bigger than he is now. She looks happy too. It seems the ball is enchanting for everyone. Everyone is finding someone. It truly is a magical night. • I am in my bed, exhausted and ready for sleep after a long and exciting night. I came to many conclusions tonight. Some I didn’t even have to make on my own. Like Ben, for example. I realized that he really does like me. After telling me so, for the rest of the night since he came back, I have no choice but to believe it. Also the way he never left my side, not even for a second; which I found comforting. Another conclusion I came to, about my mysterious man. Clearly a pigment of my imagination. I don’t know how I made it seem so real, but I did. But now that the night is over; I am almost one hundred percent sure it couldn’t have been real. Oh well, I have Ben, and that’s as real as it’s going to get…it’s as real as I’ll need. I slowly give myself over to unconsciousness with a smile over my face, awaiting sweet dreams to come to me. •••
Dear diary, As you could have probably guessed, the ball was perfect. Ben Kingston was the perfect date, a great dancer, and a true gentleman; though I cannot say that I was surprised with those results. Elizabeth, Claire and Jessica were very pleased with their dates as well. To sum it all up, it was a success!
I wake up feeling refreshed and ready. Last nights ball really did a number on me. I feel as if my excitement shall never die down. This whole day I’ve been blithe and animated. Not even Victoria could bring me down. Last night, Ben had been the perfect gentleman, and a very skilled dancer. I’m starting to wonder if there’s anything he’s not good at. There was more buzz about me and Ben again today. In almost every class I’ve been bombarded with questions. It was very hard to concentrate on my work. You try answering a million girl’s questions, day dream and do your French work all at once. But even if today was filled with as much excitement and was almost as hectic as yesterday…it was still great. The only thing that bugged me was that man. I soon gave into the little voice in my head and started asking people questions. Some people would tell me that they neither saw nor heard of such a man; but mostly people just looked at me like I was crazy. So I gave up, erasing him from my memory completely. I am too exhausted tonight to join the other girls in the spare room before our choir rehearsal tonight. I realize that I haven’t paid Miss
Logan a visit lately, and I do need to return my borrowed book that I had finished quickly. It’s a done deal then—the library it is! I make my way to the library fast-paced, book in hand. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been missing Miss Logan’s company and good conversation until now. I open the door and walk down the small staircase until I can see the bookshelves by the dozens. I turn to go see Miss Logan, and am surprised to find that she already has company. Sir Henry Laird, Master of Briar Academy is sitting across from her at her desk. They are laughing heartily together, and I know that there is feeling there. In fact, now that I think about it, I did see them dancing together at last night’s ball. Hmmm… I hope there’s something there. Miss Logan really deserves to be happy. Well, the only way to get information in to ask… “Good evening Miss Logan, Sir Laird.” I say walking towards them. I see that I’ve startled Miss Logan when she jumps a little from her chair and puts her hand on her heart. “Oh Mary, what a pleasant surprise.” She says pulling out a chair for me. “You’re finished your book already I see.” She then notes, indicating the copy of the odyssey in my hands. “Yes.” I say simply, and then look to the man: Henry Laird. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.” I say raising my eyebrows. “Not at all.” Sir Laird says, and then he looks at his watch. “I should probably be on my way. Good night ladies.” He tips his hat and walks out. “Sorry.” I mutter to Miss Logan. “For what? You weren’t interrupting anything Mary. We were just talking.” She says. “I know…but you like him.” She laughs when I say this, and I smile. “He’s a very respectable man, and nice to talk to. That much I’ll tell you.” She says to me. Of course, as nosy as I am, I want to press her for further information. I know she won’t give in though-so I take what I can get. “Do you want me to go and place the book back on the shelf?” I ask her, rising from my chair. “No Mary…that book is yours.” She says. “What? No…I couldn’t.” I say, hastily handing the book back to her. But she pushes the book away from her.
“You’re always reading it,” She says. “Besides, look how worn out it is, I’ll have to get a new copy anyway.” “Thank you.” I say, sitting back down. She starts organizing her desk, placing everything on top in a neat row. I wonder if it’s every librarian that is so organized. “It’s one of my favorites too.” She says, breaking the silence. Though I don’t know what she’s talking about. “What is?” I ask. “The Odyssey. It’s one of my favorite books too. The way Odysseus never gives up; after all those years of obstacles and torture, just to get back home-to his wife and son…it’s amazing.” She says so passionately that I can’t help but admire her. “That’s love I guess.” She finishes with a sigh. “I guess.” I agree. “The best parts are the Gods though. I can’t imagine believing in such things as Zeus, Cyclops, Athena; it’s incredible what they can do. I wonder how those people ever managed to believe it all true.” I say, getting into the conversation quite ardently. “You need to have an open mind, Mary.” She tells me, “Do you believe anything can happen?” She then asks me. “No.” I answer truthfully. There is really no other answer. I mean, I believe in one God, those other ones are ridiculous. But I guess other people might think my God is ridiculous. “When you’re brought up with certain beliefs, it’s easier I suppose.” “I suppose so.” I agree. “Who’s your favorite?...God, I mean, in the book.” “I like Poseidon,” Miss Logan tells me, smiling, “He has so much power at his fingertips. He’s a character to be admired.” “I like Circe,” I tell her, “because she’s a woman, mostly-a powerful woman.” This causes Miss Logan to laugh. “Quite right, Miss Thorn; quite right.” • I love my visits with Miss Logan. She’s the only person in the whole school that I can talk to about books without feeling stupid. And not even just that; it’s very easy to make conversation with her. I almost tell her as much as I tell Claire and Elizabeth…but not quite. I think about this as I walk with my friends to the church. Jessica is walking with us today, and we are all glad for it. Tonight shall be our last choir practice. Actually this time it isn’t even called a choir practice, but rather our rehearsal. Tomorrow is our Christmas concert, and the only thing I’m looking forward to on both nights is seeing Ben and Thomas. Apparently, Thomas had been out of the hospital and back home yesterday, but couldn’t attend the ball. The doctors ordered him two days
of rest. One, he got yesterday, the other today. I guess he figured he was doing well enough that he could come to our rehearsal tonight. We all walk into the church, same as always. One different thing though, is that we aren’t going to be separated into two groups. Since during the concert we shall all be performing together as one group, our rehearsal shall be practiced the same way. When we make our way in, Victoria and her friends run over to Thomas. Elizabeth follows after and embraces her cousin. I, on the other hand, go to Ben to see how he is doing. (I wouldn’t want to intrude on Thomas’s time with family and Victoria.) “Good evening Miss Thorn.” He greets me with a smile. “Good evening Mister Kingston.” I reply, tired of always having to talk so politely. “I expect you enjoyed yourself at the ball?” He says, with a hopeful look in his eyes. “Very much so.” I reply, “And yourself?” I inquired shyly. He leans down so that his face is leveled with mine. “More than you can imagine.” He whispered, and my heart just about stopped. “Alright ladies, gather round in one group. Rehearsal begins now.” Miss Morgan yells, breaking the magic, and we all obey. My group is placed in the front, and the other group is behind us. “Alright girls. We want to keep this practice as short as possible, so we’re only going to run through each song once, unless it’s absolutely necessary to do otherwise.” Thomas explains to us. I must admit that for the longest time of the first half of the practice, I was staring at Thomas. Not because of his looks or because I liked him or anything. I was making sure that there were no sings of him still being sick. For if I saw that he was, I would have felt immediately guilty for him coming over here in such a horrid condition. Luckily, I was surprised to see how healthy he looked. And I’m glad he’s doing so well. The only thing that bothers me about his appearance is that he doesn’t seem to be happy. And I’m not making this up. Anyone who really looked at him could tell. Not that he never smiles or anything. I saw him smiling when Victoria and Elizabeth went over to see him. But there’s just something about his expression…something must be bothering him. Maybe I should ask… “Is something wrong Mary?” Miss Morgan asks me, and I just realized that I forgot to pretend to be singing along.
“No ma’am. I was just daydreaming. Sorry.” I say lamely, and can hear Victoria and her wretches laughing behind me. “You should take more care into the task in front of you rather than wasting your time on the moon!” She says very sternly. I wonder why she is in such a bad mood. Before we begin again I glance at Thomas. He is laughing at me again. And just when I start to think we could be friends, he has to go and ruin it by being an ass. And to think I was worried about him only a second ago! I hate boys. Except him. I look at Ben, and can see him shooting me a sympathetic look. And though it makes me feel a bit better, it also makes me feel a lot worse. I’m not used to him seeing me mess up at rehearsal. I feel so stupid. The rehearsal finished fast enough; for which I am appreciative. I didn’t mess up again after that last time, and I got to look at Ben for the whole rehearsal. I think it is our best one yet. Miss Logan ended up inviting the boys back over to Smith’s for tea as a ‘thank you’ for all their effort and hard work. I am pleased that she has done so. This shall allow me to spend more time with Ben…and maybe get a chance to see how Thomas is feeling. Miss’s Trenchfield waits for us at the entrance. We find out that it was really her idea to invite the boys over here. She leads them into the great hall, where we usually eat, while the rest of us go back to our room to change into an evening gown. “So, I saw you talking to Ben earlier. Did he say anything about the ball?” Claire asks me once in our room. I told her what he said. In fact, I told her everything into detail that she now knows every word that had been exchanged between us during rehearsal. I even made her aware of every smile. And I know that may be over doing it; bit I am excited, and she didn’t seem to mind. In the spare room (the cozy room), Anne and two other maids come in with tea and trays of goodies. Everyone seems to be scattered around the room, mostly sitting on couches or chairs. The chairs with the tables were always preferable. And with that, Me, Elizabeth, Claire and Jessica take one of the chairs with the table placed in front of it left. Anne comes over and offers us a cup of tea and some treats, and well, when have I ever said no to sweets. So of course we all take some. They taste much like my own muffins, only not as good. We thank Anne and she scampers off.
“Those are quite delicious aren’t they?” A familiar voice says from behind me. “Do have a seat with us, Thomas.” Elizabeth says, and then smiles Victoria’s way. It’s obvious she has done this to taunt Victoria, but I’m certainly not going to do a thing about it, except go along. “Yes, these are quite delicious.” I say, offering conversation, “Though not as good as mine.” I joke, only it’s the truth. “Well aren’t you modest.” Thomas says to me, laughing. And the others laugh too. “Are you all excited for the Christmas concert tomorrow? You get to leave for home afterwards for two weeks, am I correct?” he then asks. “Yupp. Christmas vacation.” Jessica says. “I think the concert shall be splendid.” Claire says happily. “Because you’re an amazing singer. Nobody else is excited besides you and Elizabeth.” I say, and Jessica nods. “Actually, Victoria is excited as well.” Claire then says, getting on my bad side. “That’s only because…” I blurt out, then stop myself before I embarrass both Thomas and me. It’s quite clear that Victoria is excited for anything that she gets to see Thomas for and rub it in every other girls face. Imbecile. It stays silent for a little while. Probably they all guessed what I was about to say. Actually, it’s more than likely. Well, I made this mess; the least I can do is erase it. Or I can at least try. “Any plans for Christmas Vacation?” I ask to nobody in particular, luckily, it works. “I’ve already asked my mom for you and Claire to stay over the night before school. Actually, you should come too Jessica, it will be fun!” Elizabeth says. “Thanks,” Jessica says, “I’d love too.” “Does anyone know of any balls or tea’s?” Claire asks. “I hear Mr. and Mrs. Kingston are upholding one soon.” Thomas says, looking at me with a smirk. “But I’m sure you knew that.” He says to me. “No…I-I didn’t.” I say, stumbling on my words. I do not know why, but Thomas is making me uncomfortable. “I’m sure you’ll get an invite no doubt. In fact, you shall all probably receive one. They invite everyone important.” Thomas says. He’s probably right. My family and the other girl’s family are pretty high up…we get invited to a lot of things. “I’m sure you’re right.” Elizabeth says, sending me a smile, and it makes me feel better. Thank you Elizabeth. I think to myself.
“My parents are probably planning something as we speak. They love that kind of thing. They hold something monthly. I wonder what it shall be this time.” Elizabeth then puts in. Thomas throws his head back, as usual, and laughs. “You’re right, Eli, I hadn’t thought of that. I expect it shall be grand.” “Isn’t it always?” Elizabeth says, sounding a little like Victoria. “Excuse me.” I say, and retreat myself. I take off to go stand by the fireplace. The next thing I know—Ben is beside me. Which I should have known was going to happen. Actually, it was what I was hoping for. “Nice fireplace.” He says softly. “It’s cozy.” I say simply. And he just goes: ‘mmmm’ and nods in agreement. “It’s a beautiful room altogether,” He then says, “It’s no wonder you ladies always come here.” “We don’t always. Mostly though. It’s usually either here or the sun room, but it’s winter.” I say, and he laughs. “What’s your favorite room?” He asks me. “Why do you ask?” I inquire curios why he would want to know such an unimportant detail. “I want to know everything about you, Miss Thorn.” He says, and I can feel my heart beat quicken again. “The…the library.” I say embarrassed of my small voice. But it seemed impossible to talk in a higher level. “You like to read?” He says, sounding a little surprised. “Very much so.” I say. And he gives a little laugh. “So you’re a wonk then?” He says, still laughing a little, and I’m a little insulted at this comment. “I’m not a nerd because I read!” I say, getting a little angry. “No, you read because you’re a nerd.” He says, laughing even harder. I do not say anything to provoke him. I’ve never seen this side of him before, how can someone change so fast. Doesn’t he like me anymore? Or was this his way of telling me. I should have known. I surprisingly don’t cry…I’m far too angry for that. Instead I glare at him, burning holes into his forehead. “Miss Thorn, I was joking…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He says, putting his arms out, as if he was about to hold me. But he pulls them back quickly, obviously remembering where we were. “It’s okay.” I say, “I’m not mad.” And it was the truth. I shouldn’t have guessed he was joking. Thank goodness he told me, I feel much better now. •
I spent most of the rest of my time with Ben, but later I went back to Elizabeth, Jessica and Claire (Thomas had gone off to see Victoria.). It was a good night in all. Once again Ben did all the talking. I hate that I cant start conversation with him. But he doesn’t seem to mind, he’s always got something to say. We went to bed at our normal bedtime, thank goodness for that. It’s been a long day, and we have a long day ahead of us. •••
19The Christmas Concert
Dear diary, As soon as I woke up today, I had butterflies in my stomach. Today is our Christmas concert and also the day I return home for a two week Christmas vacation before I return back to Smith’s. I can only hope that I shall get to see Ben during these two weeks. Well, here’s hoping!
I wake up extra early to pack my stuff to bring home. My parents shall be sending a carriage to pick it up today and bring it home before coming to watch the concert at Briar Academy. I’m once again exhausted from a loss of sleep. I couldn’t shut off my thoughts. I just kept going through every possible thing that could go wrong tonight, over and over again. And trust me…everything that could go wrong, could happen to me—it usually does. I seem to be the only one who is nervous when I go downstairs for breakfast. Every other girl talks about the concert with excitement and anxiety. Clearly they’ve all lost their minds. We are supposed to leave for Briar Academy at four O’ clock, even though the show starts at seven. We need to be dressed and ready before then, so once we get there we have no other priority than to practice practice practice before we go on stage.
So, at around three, my butler came to fetch my things (of course my family had been too busy to come and get it themselves.) After that, Claire and I went into Elizabeth and Jessica’s room to get ready for the concert. It seems like we’ve been dong this a lot lately. Getting ready, trying to look our best for some grand event. I can’t say that I don’t enjoy dressing up, for I relish it every time…but when it’s for something like a ‘Christmas concert.’ I am not looking forward to it what so ever. Another thing that I’m not truly looking forward is going home for two weeks. Though Smith’s isn’t really preferable to my home, it’s been rather exciting here with Ben and Thomas. I fear that after we leave for our vacation and come back, it will be all over, and I shall never see them again. What am I saying? Of course that’s the way it’s going to be. They were only here to help us with the concert after all. Even if we didn’t all go home for two weeks, they still wouldn’t be coming here to Smith’s because the concert is tonight. Panic rises in my chest as I enter the carriage to be on my way to the Briar Academy country club. I start to breathe heavily, worrying about if I’ll ever be able to see them again. Well, sure I’ll see them at parties and tea’s and what not. But what will I be to them then? Some silly little school girl that they knew once. That’s it. Nothing more, forever. “Mary, we’re here, come on.” Elizabeth says pulling on my arm, and my breathing returns to normal. Well, I think to myself, If I don’t want them to forget about me, I better make this night memorable. Hopefully not by embarrassing myself. The Briar Academy country club is everything I imagined it too look like. A big classy and important looking building with lovely trimmed trees in the front. “Welcome ladies!” Sir Henry Laird says, walking down the steps towards us. “I hope you like it here. I’ll give you a little tour before we start getting ready.” He says, leading us inside. The entrance is huge as if I hadn’t guessed it was. Beautiful marble covered the floor, and a gorgeous grand piano placed on the side. There were a few plants placed here and there, rather randomly, but yet seemed to be in their place. It was beautiful. Well…it was a country club. Sir Henry Laird showed us everything. From the smoking room, to the kitchen, to the yard. I have to say the yard was my favorite part of the tour. It was larger than the building itself. It contained a golf course, and a garden. The
garden resembled a little like Smith’s own garden. Only in this one, there were sun chairs and tables placed everywhere so that they could come out and enjoy a nice lunch or such. Also, they had another grand piano outside for more entertainment. It seemed they had a grand piano is almost every room. But it was classy, and it looked great. Clearly this was a very rich country club. The men here have to belong to a very wealthy family just to eat here, let alone actually belong to the club. Sir Laird saved the performance room for last. Behind the stage was a dressing room, which was where we’d be spending the next two odd hours getting ready in. We’re already dressed and our hair is done, so all that’s left is to practice. Within the next hour or so, many other groups come in to practice their performances, so Miss Morgan gives us leave to relax until we’re up. She says that we’ve grown very much as a group and that we shall do an excellent job tonight. I can only hope that she is right. Sooner or later the show begins, and the first couple of acts go on stage. Ben and Thomas only show up now. “Well you aren’t very punctual.” I say to Thomas for he is nearest to me. “You’ll thank me later.” He says with a wink. After the first act, the second one goes, and many after that until I lose count and the butterflies grow stronger. “And next we have some lovely ladies from Smith’s private school for young ladies!” A loud voice says, though it seems far away. My heart starts with a jump. Oh no, it’s time! Not only will my family be there, but so will Ben’s parents (who I’ve still never met; and of course I want to make a good first impression), Thomas’s family, my friends’ family, and not to mention the school staff that have been invited. We all step through the curtain, and I am holding Elizabeth’s hand for support. I try my next to smile and not notice how much people are here. But I can’t do that unless I closed my eyes, which, again, I cannot do unless I want to trip and fall, which may be worse then fainting. “Deck the halls with bell of holly, fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la…” They’ve started singing and I only notice this a little later. Fantastic, everyone will have certainly noticed the one awkward girl in the front, mute and helpless.
I open my mouth and pretend to sing along. For if I truly sang, I would only ruin the show more than I already have. In time, I get the hang of my lip singing, and no has noticed yet. I focus on the words and the sound of beautiful voices standing out from the crowd. These voices are easy to tell apart of course. I can pull out four. Elizabeth and Claire (the loudest, for they are standing beside me), and Thomas and Ben, though farther away, still lovelier and louder than the others. I look to my left at Elizabeth, and then pull my glance away to Claire; they are both looking straight into the crowd. I should do the same, I know, I haven’t made eye contact with the crowd since we’ve started and we’ve sang a couple of songs already. I take a deep breath and look ahead of me…into the crowd. This isn’t so bad. Never loosing focus of my lip singing, I scan the crowd for people I know. The school staff is the easiest. They are sitting together, forming a big a recognizable group. I note all my teachers, and even some of the maids. It was very nice of them to come. The next thing I look for is my family. It takes me a while to spot them, not being as big a group as the teachers, with clothes that blend in with everyone around them. I see my mother and my little sister smiling at me, and I smile back, trying to make it look like I’m still singing. My grandmother and my father are watching the show with indifferent faces. And my brother Gavan and his wife apparently didn’t make the effort to show themselves at all. I am insulted at their absence and a little relieved at the same time. At least I won’t have to deal with his rude remarks about how funny I look on stage when I get home. Suddenly I break out of my train of thought when I hear applause. We’re done. I let out another deep breath. I went though the whole performance without embarrassing myself. I copy Claire and Elizabeth beside me, giving little curtsies to the crowd. I turn to leave but Meggie, behind me, stops me. It’s only them that I notice nobody is walking off the stage. Why are we still standing here? I think that we look like a bunch of idiots, standing on stage after everyone is done applauding us, until I notice that something is going on. Thomas Benet leads Victoria to the center stage. What is he doing?
He looks rather nervous. I try to understand what’s going on, but part of me ignores the one piece of logic that has been haunting me for some time. The room is fatally silent. No one of us girls or the crowd can be heard. The loudest thing in the room is my heavy breathing. So much for trying not to embarrass myself. I control by breathing fast enough, and I hear the crowd gasp in excitement. I take my attention back to Thomas and Victoria to see what the fuss is about. Thomas, facing Victoria leans down on one knee, pulling a small black box out of his jacket pocket. Victoria wears a smile to her ears. She knows what’s about to happen, as we all do. “Miss Victoria Brooks,” He starts, still looking nervous. I look to the crowd and see Thomas’ mother, not looking happy, his father on the other hand, looking completely buoyant. His brother wears the same expression as his father. I turn back to Thomas with a queasy stomach. “Will you do me the honor of marrying me?” He finished his question. I’m feeling a little dizzy, and this is all starting to feel like a dream…Victoria’s answer seems farther away. “Yes.” I hear her voice, though I cannot see her. I can’t see anything. The crowd erupts in cheering, whistling and clapping. Their noise getting father and farther away with each passing second. • “She did it on purpose. She’s trying to ruin one of the happiest days of my life,” I can hear Victoria’s annoying voice, still sounding farther away than it should. “She’s always been jealous of me.” She says, and I come back to reality. I open my eyes to find that I am lying down on a couch in the lounging room. I’m still in the country club. “What happened?” I ask, looking up at Miss Morgan and my mother. I turn to see Victoria speaking to her mother, and Thomas beside Miss Morgan, looking worried, and maybe a bit sad. “You fainted on stage, my dear.” My mother says to me. I give a loud groan. This could not be happening. “I wasn’t aware that you had a fear of crowds Miss Thorn,” Miss Morgan tells me, “You should have said something.” “Sorry.” I say, letting them all believe that it was my ‘fear of crowds’ that caused my fainting. “Are you alright Miss Thorn?” Thomas asks me in a weary voice, but before I could answer Victoria’s mother calls him over.
“It’s late,” I hear her say, “I’ll bring you home, come.” Despicable woman. Thomas follows Victoria and her family out like an obedient dog. “Poor man.” Miss Morgan says, “Seems to think this whole thing was his fault. Though I can’t see how.” She says. “Are you ready to go home dear?” My mother asks, “The others are waiting in the next room along with Mister Kingston.” She says. I sit up slowly. “How long have I been out?” I ask. “Only and hour, dear. I suppose the show is just ending now. “Your other friends Claire, Elizabeth and another nice girl Jessica had to leave, but said to give you their best.” “Okay.” I say, and follow her out of the room. “Oh, Miss Thorn…You’re okay?” Ben says, coming over to me, handing me flowers. “Thanks.” I say. “It’s why Thomas and I were late earlier. To buy you girls these.” He says smiling, and I smile back. “It was very thoughtful of you and Mister Benet. They’re lovely.” He smiles again, looking pleased with my reaction, and hands me an envelope. “Here,” He says, “I wanted to give it to you in person. But don’t open it until you get home.” “Okay, I promise.” I say shoving the envelope into my purse. “I suppose I shall see you soon then. Good bye Miss Thorn.” He says at last, and I walk out with the rest of my family. Time to go home. •••
20Home Sweet Home
Dear diary, I fainted after our performance last nightFAINTED! Not only did I make a complete fool out of myself, Victoria won. She got a proposal before I did. Not that I’m sure Ben is going to. He told me he likes me, but maybe that’s not enough yet. Oh well, time to get out of bed and seize the day. Yeah right.
I wake up early again today. Before half of the workers are even up. As soon as I got home last night I wet straight to bed. I didn’t bother to undress or undo my hair or take a bath. I simply came into my bedroom and fell asleep instantly. Obviously public embarrassment can be pretty tiring. So, as you can imagine, I look a complete horror. And since I do not want to scare everyone out of the house, I quickly run to the bathroom with a clean dress to take a nice relaxing bath. 119
I take off my necklace (With the key from Thomas hanging from it), still wondering if I shall ever find out what it is for. The chances aren’t likely. Oh well, another mystery I’ll have to live with I guess. I soon realize that I haven’t yet opened the envelope from Ben. I cut my bath short, jump out, get dressed and jet back to my room. I dig through my purse for the envelope. I open it as soon as my hands reach it and pull out a lovely piece of paper.
Dear Miss Thorn, It is my great pleasure to invite you and your family to our annual tea that we shall be hosting Saturday of this weekend at twelve O’ clock sharp. Nothing but the invitation is required. Fondly, Mister Benet. (And his family)
I put the invitation back into the envelope. I hurry down the hall into the family room to see if anyone is up yet. “My goodness Mary, what are you doing running around like that? You could hurt someone!” My grandmother says, looking displeasingly at me. “Sorry grandmother.” I say, and then I turn to my mother and father, “I’ve great news.” I then say, “We are invited to the Kingston’s annual tea this Saturday!” Then I hand the invitation over to my father so that he could read it out loud. When he’s finished, all eyes turn to me, and everyone wears a smile on their face…even my grandmother. “Well Mary, it seems you’ve finally found a suitable man!” My mother says. “It’s not like that.” I protest, though her comment makes me happy. “Oh it’s not?” She asks with a raised eyebrow, “Is this not the young man who took you to the ball?” She asks. “Yes.” I say, giving up. “Sure sounds like something to me.” My father says. “I always hoped you’d be the first to marry out of your pierce, but it seems Miss Brooks beat you to the punch. At least you’re not far behind.” My grandmother says coldly. “Who’s richer?” She then asks. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t believe how incredibly rude my grandmother can be. “Pardon me?” I ask.
“Whose family is richer? If Mr. Kingston is richer than Mr. Benet, then you still win.” She says. “‘It’s not a competition.” I answer, “and I don’t know.” “It is a competition.” She says sternly, “I sure hope Mr. Kingston is wealthier.” She adds. “Actually, I think Thom-umm, Mister Benet might be.” I say, purposefully trying to annoy my grandmother. It works. “I thought you didn’t know.” She says, catching me in my lie. “Well, they are both very wealthy; Mister Benet is more modest about it.” I say, trying to recover. “Poppy cock!” She yells, “Men are never modest about money. If they got it, they flaunt it. And even if they don’t have it, they pretend they do.” She says. “You never talked bad about men when Grandfather was alive!” I shout, and regret it right away. She doesn’t answer to my remark, somewhat to my satisfaction. “Where are Gavan and Emily?” I ask, changing the subject, purposely not mentioning Marissa’s name. “Gavan and Marissa shall only arrive tonight for dinner. And Emily is in the drawing room.” My mother says. The drawing room? For the nine years that I’ve known my little sister, I’ve never known her to be in the drawing room. I go off to find her. I know it sounds stupid, but I can’t help but be a little jealous of my little sister. I know―pathetic right? But I can’t help it. She’s the youngest and gets the most attention, not to mention beautiful. Gavan too, my parents have always been more proud of. He married a rich aristocrat (no matter how much of a witch she is), we put up with her because she has money. The world we live in is a much messed up place. I find my little sister where my mother said she was: in the drawing room. “Hi Mary!” She says, running up to give me a hug. “How are you feeling?” She asks me with a concerned look on her face. I only realize now that I really have missed her. “I’m fine Em. What are you up to?” I ask, after she breaks the embrace. “Trying to paint.” She says, “But it looks stupid, you’re sooo much better.” She says, and I walk over to her painting with her. It really was pretty good. “It looks great Em.” I say sincerely.
“I wish I was as good as you though. Mom and Dad are always going on about your art. I want to be good too.” She says, and I immediately feel guilty and stupid. It was dumb of me to think what I thought about her and my parents earlier. “You are good Emily. Keep it up. You’re still young.” I say, turning to walk out. “Thanks Mary!” She calls out with a big smile on her face. • We are all sitting at the dinner table while being served. Since our whole family is now here, we are having a great feast. Turkey, potatoes, every kind of salad you could imagine. And every kind of pie for desert. Gavan and Marissa arrived not too long ago, and I cannot say that I am all that happy that Marissa is here as well. But she’s been happily accepted into our family without question, so the fact that I do not care for her doesn’t matter at all. “You missed our Mary’s performance yesterday, Gavan. She was quite magnificent.” My mother tells him, but his face stays indifferent. “Except the part where she fainted.” My grandmother says dryly. “She fainted?” Gavan exclaims! “On stage? Wow, now I wish I was there. Good job Mary. You make this family proud.” He says, he and Marissa laughing together at Gavan’s own rudeness. Thanks a lot grandma! “Now Gavan…respect your sister.” My father says coming to my rescue. “My, it must have been absolutely horrid to have to stand in the middle of the show, everyone knowing that that’s your daughter.” Marissa says rudely. I hate her more than Thomas, I decide. She’s not even pretty, I laugh to myself. Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed it was out loud. “Are you quite alright, Mary?” My mother asks me. “I feel little sick, may I be excused?” I ask. “Certainly.” My father says. I get up from my chair, and walk out of my room still hungry. “Careful not to faint!” Gavan calls out, and I can hear Marissa’s witch of a laugh again. Yes, home sweet home. • Later that night, the butler shows up in my room with a letter.
“This came for you madam.” He says, handing me the letter. I wait until he is gone until I open it. It’s from Thomas, and it reads only one line:
We need to talk.
Dear diary, My stay here at home so far has not been that pleasurable. I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid Gavan, Marissa and my grandmother. And doing my best to spend my time in the house with Emily. Well, besides shopping, painting and nothing, the only thing I’ve been doing is looking forward to the Kingston tea. It’s coming up soon, and I hope that Elizabeth and Claire have been invited as well. I shall have to wait and see.
It has been a very long week. Of course time passes slowly when you are only being annoyed left and right. I can’t walk into a room without my Grandmother, Gavan or Marissa making some rude comment to belittle me. My mother and father have been nice, though they do not really defend me. Oh well. One more week to go and then I am back at Smith’s preparing further for my season. But I’m not going to think about that now. Now that I am preparing myself for the Kingston’s grand tea. We shall be leaving soon, and I’m doing my best to hurry up. I glance once more to my nightstand before walking out of my room. Beside my candle is the key and the note from Thomas. I tried my best not to think about that note. For the greater part, I tried my best not to think about Thomas at all. And what does he think he’s doing sending me insensible notes? What does he even need to talk about? Did he want his key back? I better bring it to the tea in case he’s there and he wants it. Maybe he thinks I’ve taken a liking to him. Lord I hope not. But it would be just like him to be so conceited and full of himself to think that I did. Well, if that’s what he thought then he probably wants to set me straight. Though if that is truly the case, then I’ll be the one setting him straight. I do not intend to get into the middle of he and Victoria. Besides, I have Ben, and Ben is a million times better than Thomas. We enter our carriage to go to the tea. Gavan and Marissa are staying home with Emily who is too young to attend such an event, that will probably stand hours long. She’d be much too tired. But the fact that Gavan and Marissa actually agreed to watching her and not coming to attend the tea is what genuinely shocks me. I have never been to Ben’s house before, and I couldn’t tell which one we were going to stop at while we were ridding down the street. Every house looked the same, big and rich. So when we stopped in front of his house, I wasn’t at all surprised at what I was looking at. A man met us at the door, welcoming us with a smile. Beside the man were Ben and what I’m guessing are his parents. “Mother, Father I’d like you to meet Miss Thorn and her family.” Ben says, putting his arm lightly around me. “Nice to meet you.” They both say, greeting each one of us individually. We are then led into the dinning room, which is as big as our ball room at Smith’s. In the middle is the longest table I’ve ever laid eyes on, 124
and a little to the side is a piano. Clearly we shall be in the presence of some sort of entertainment this evening. We seat ourselves where our names are placed on notes in front of each chair. On my way by, I notice both Claire and Elizabeth’s names. I also noticed Victoria, and I wonder if Thomas or any of her other friends will be arriving. I hope not. The note from Thomas is still in my purse, which I’ve kept with me in case I shall be in need of it. The seating arrangements are very suitable. Well, for me anyway. I haven’t really taken a note to observe where everyone else is being seated. But I am sitting with my family, of course (that’s a given) and beside Mr. Kingston. Ben is still at the door with his parents, and will probably stay there until they’ve greeting everyone who is supposed to come. Slowly the guests make their arrival, Many of them who I do not know personally come first, it is later that I see my piers and enemies. I was right—Claire and Elizabeth were invited, along with their families of course. Not only were they here, but Laura, Victoria and Thomas too, along with their families. Or parts of them. But every member of Thomas’s family who I met at the hospital was here, and so I’m guessing that it is his whole family. Without further ado, Mr. Paul Kingston (Ben’s father) welcomes us all at the table, and begins with a toast after our tea is served. I look down the table when he is done and give a little wave to Claire and then to Elizabeth. And then I wonder if Jessica had been invited. Well if she had, she didn’t come, which is a shame. I’d rather have many than few friends here with me. People drink their tea, and the conversation gets started. Rumbles fill the long table, everyone chatting amiably. I see that the Benet family was conveniently placed beside the Brooks family, allowing Thomas and Victoria to sit beside each other. “So, my son tells me that you are quite the artist Miss Thorn.” Mr. Paul Kingston says, causing me to look away from across the table. SO Ben’s been talking to his family about me. My heart jumps a little at this thought. Art was one of the few things Ben and I conversed about. “Oh I’m sure he’s being too kind, really.” I say, blushing a little. “None sense,” He says, “My son is never too kind.” He gives a little laugh, and I laugh with him, “You’ll have to share with us sometime.” He finishes.
“It would be my pleasure.” I say, sipping my tea. I can see my grandmother looking appraisingly at me. At least she’s not glaring for once. “I see you have a piano.” I note, speaking to Ben. “Will you be singing for us later?” “Oh no.” Ben says. “Oh, that would be marvelous!” A lady from across the table says. “Yes, do sing.” Another voice calls. “Go on, dear.” His mother urges him, and before he stands up, he gives me a little playful glare. I only smile back. “Ladies and gentlemen, my son has decided to put on a little show for us.” Mr. Paul Kingston says. Everyone sitting at the table claps for him loudly. A man I do not recognize seats himself in front of the piano, asks Ben what song, and begins to play. However much his voice impressed me before, it impressed me much more now. The piano added a nice tint to it as well. Everyone seemed dazed looking at him, listening to his sweet voice. No one could turn away from him for a second; it doesn’t help that he is hopelessly handsome. I’d bet my bed that every girl here (married or not) wishes they were his, and I feel a slow smile creep up in me as I think how I’m the closest one to him. I really am a lucky girl. The song ends, and he returns to sit beside me. “Thanks.” He said dryly. “But I didn’t even compliment you yet.” I say, teasing. “But for the record, it was wonderful. You really are talented.” I say politely and he grunts. “Sure, thank me when I don’t say anything, but when I compliment, now you get mad.” I say, and my mother gives me a warning look. She obviously doesn’t understand that we are just joking around. “Thank you for the lovely compliment Miss Thorn.” He says, purposefully forcing a smile to his ears, and we both laugh together. Laughing with him feels good. It doesn’t happen often, we’re always forced to be so serious, but when it does, it’s like magic. The funny thing about a tea is that you barely even drink it during its event. I mean, sure you start out with one, but then you get your courses of fancy tasty food, then you start conversation, but you only really have one cup of tea. Unless you ask for another of course. But I only have one, and don’t intend to be a bother and ask for more. Besides, all this food is making me too full to drink. Sooner or later, the entertainment start to play (the piano), and people are rising from their chairs, walking around and socializing. The
only ones left sitting at the table are those who are still hungry…though I can’t see how that is still possible. I follow my mother up to talk to more people. Most of the times I dread dumb social parties or teas or anything I get dragged to by my parents or my grandmother. But this time I really am enjoying it. Probably because I have actually friends here, and because I’m at Ben Kingston’s house….yes. That definitely makes a difference. I tell my mother before she starts her hour long conversation, that I am going to see Claire and Elizabeth. Of course I’m only aloud to see them if I’m within eye shot from someone in our family. It would be rather unsightly to be seen without a chaperone. “Oh Mary, I’ve missed you so!” Elizabeth says holding me in her embrace. “You too, Eli.” I say once I regain my breath. “I’ve missed you too Claire.” I say hugging her. She does likewise. “So Jessica couldn’t come I guess.” I say, hoping one of them have an answer. “No, apparently she had a precious engagement to attend to.” Claire says, sounding a little rehearsed. “That’s too bad.” Elizabeth says. “Yes.” I agree, “I’d hate to not see her throughout the whole vacation.” “You shan’t. She will be at my house with you and Claire.” Elizabeth says, and I suddenly remember her inviting Jessica along too. I’m glad she did that. Jessica never really did fit in anywhere, and we all rather enjoy her. Suddenly my throat feels a little dry. I excuse myself from the girls, promising them to come right back, and make my way over to the refreshment table by the door to get something to drink. But before I could even grab a cup, I get pulled into the other room, crammed in a corner behind a plant. “Ow!” I yell, and a hand covers my mouth roughly, so I do not make a sound. Once I am quiet and still, the hand releases me and turns me to face the owner. “Thomas, are you crazy!” I hiss. “Did you get my note?” He asks. “Yes, and if you ask me, we don’t need to talk, least of all now!” I say, getting angry. If we’re caught, people will make assumptions and my future with Ben shall be ruined. “I know Mary, I’m not so daft. You need to get away, soon. There’s a spare room upstairs. Meet me there in thirty minutes.” He says, and
before I could say no, he’s stands up and walks back into the dinning room hastily. Stupid Thomas. When I’m just starting to enjoy myself, he has to come and ruin it. I should have been ready for that I guess. He always finds a way to make me miserable if he’s present. I straighten myself up and whip my dress before returning to the room. When I do, I note that no one seemed to have noticed my two minute absence, for which I am thankful for. I return to my friends who are now talking to Victoria and Laura. What the hell? “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Victoria says, showing off her new ring, placed on one of the fingers of her left hand. “Looks a little cheap to me.” Elizabeth says, and I laugh. Victoria looks at us both coldly. “What are you both laughing at? I’m the one getting married, while you are still alone and pitiful.” She says, thinking she’s one. It’s going to take a bit of effort to win this one without raising our voices to cause a scene. “I’d rather be a poor beggar and live in a card board box for the rest of my life then be married to him!” I say, cocking my head towards Thomas. “Really Mary? Thomas is handsome, rich and talented. You think you could do better?” She laughs. “Oh, that’s right. You’ve got your sights set on Ben. Honestly Mary, would a man like Ben be interested in a girl like you?” She finished before walking off with Laura. She didn’t even have to stick around to know that she won. It’s true. Ben is too good for me. I know it, everyone knows it. And that’s all Victoria had to say to win. I can only hope that she’ll get hers one of these days. But so far it looks as if she’s going to live happily ever after while I live happily every lonesome. “What is my cousin thinking?” Elizabeth says, starring at Victoria as she walks off. “I have no clue.” Claire says. Unexpectedly, a group walks in and all heads turn in their direction. There are four of them, but I only recognize one. Jessie Tigers. I look at Claire to see her face light up. Her prince has arrived, really late, but he’s arrived. I see Claire’s family moving up to greet them, and Claire excuses herself to follow them. “Aren’t they cute?” Elizabeth says dreamily. “It makes me wish James was here.” She says before giving a sigh. “They are adorable. You and James too.” I add.
“And what of you and Ben, hmm? You two are certainly a match made in heaven.” She says, and I smile a little, but drop it just as fast. “Not quite.” I say pathetically. “Not quite? He told you he liked you! What more do you want? For it to be written in stone?” She asks, and I know she’s right. “There’s just always that ‘if’. You know. What if he changes his mind?” “Nonsense. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Look Mary, I don’t know if this has to do with what Victoria’s been saying…but don’t listen to her, okay? She’s wrong. She’s always wrong. Ben is lucky to have your interest.” She says, and I instantaneously feel better. “Thanks Eli.” I say, before rejoining my mother. I look at my watch. Still ten minutes before I have to go meet Thomas. That doesn’t really give me much time to work a getaway plan. I guess I’ll just have to make it up spur of the moment. That always seems to work anyway. “Excuse me, Miss Mary Thorn?” A small lady voice asks. I turn around to see that it is Ben’s mother—Miss’s Samantha Kingston. “Yes?” I ask politely. “Have you seen my Ben? You see, some of our guests have just arrived late, and I would like him to greet them.” She says, looking panicked. “I’m so sorry, I haven’t seen him ma’am.” I answer, and suddenly the hopeless look on her face fades. “I’ll bet he’s out with the boys having a cigar!” She exclaims, before walking off. What is it with men and their cigars? They just make you smell bad. My mother suddenly seems to remember my existence. “Oh Mary, you’ve met Mister and Miss’s Harper?” She says. “Oh, sure.” I say distracted, and then I look at my watch. Five minutes left. Time to come up with a plan. I find Elizabeth with her mother and pull her aside, gently, trying to be as stealth as I can. It worked…somewhat. “Geez Mary, what is it?” She says, rubbing her arm where I pulled her. “I need you to come up stairs with me.” I say, and she looks confused. “Why?” “It’s a long story Elizabeth. Basically Thomas sent me a note the other day saying we need to talk, he pulled me aside earlier and said the time and place which is now, and upstairs.” I’m talking while leading her up the stairs. “That doesn’t give me enough information. You’ll have to tell me everything when your little meeting is done. And…what if someone
should notice our absence?” She asks, and I give a little laugh, and point my hand to the crowd below us. “Trust me. They are far to involved in their important gossip and conversation. But if it makes you feel better, we’ll come up with an excuse on our way back down in case anyone should ask.” I tell her, and she lets out a sigh of relief. We’ve reached the top of the stairs, and Elizabeth and I stand there, clueless as to which room I’m to meet Thomas in. ‘The spare room’, he had said, but which room was the spare one? Suddenly Thomas steps out of one down the hall. “You’re late.” He says, raising his eye brow before walking back in the room. I look at my watch reflexively, five minutes late. “You guard the door.” I tell Elizabeth before walking down the hall and into the room where Thomas had been. “Close the door.” He ordered, and I obeyed. “Look,” I start, wanting to get this over fast. “I don’t know what this is about…but I can bet it’s completely unnecessary. If Victoria knew-″ “Victoria? She doesn’t seem to be anywhere. Besides, friends are aloud to talk. I only need to ask a few questions.” I have a few questions myself. Since his note, I’ve been going through over and over again in my mind what I would like to say to him; what I never got a chance to ask him. The key in my purse weighed down heavily on me, with him standing here in front of me. “You could have very well asked me anything downstairs instead of sneaking away like this.” I say. “No I couldn’t. Not if I wanted the truth from you. We need to be alone.” He says, his eyes looking so intense, he’s never looked lovelier. “Okay. What do you need to ask me?” I gave in. It didn’t take much, and I knew it wouldn’t. I don’t seem to be winning any battles today. “At the concert, when you—you know, was it because, uh, because you have a fear of crowds?” He asked, look uncertain. “Of course it was,” I say by instinct, “Why else…” I stop short. I was right, he thought I liked him. He thought I fainted because he had asked Victoria to marry him. “Thomas…” I start again, “I don’t-″ “I know.” He said in a small voice, and this is the lowest I’ve ever seen him. Something was wrong, something’s been wrong for a while. I saw it on his face the night of the concert, I’ve seen it before, and I can see it now. This time, though, I am not going to ignore it. Thomas Benet was my friend, even if I do hate him at times. He saved my life, and I owe him it.
“Thomas.” I say hid name softly, walking closer to him. “Is there, is there something you need to talk about?” I ask, placing my hand lightly on his arm. He pulled away. “Things have just been messed up lately. I don’t know how to fix anything.” He said, looking away. He looks so pained, it’s breaking my heart. There has to be a way that I can help him. “Is there anything I can do, Thomas?” I ask, purposefully using his first name only, as he’s done so many times with me. I can see it worked, at the sound of my using his name informally, he smiled. But it faded fast. He took me in his arms, and I let him. If this is the only way to comfort him, I would let him. No point hurting him more, right? “There’s so much you don’t know, Mary,” He whispered to me, his chin resting on my head. “So much you don’t understand.” I pull away from him slightly to look up at his face. “Tell me then.” I say, but he only shakes his head. “Why not?” I complain unattractively, pulling away completely. “It would be wrong…for me to…get you involved. I guess that’s the best way to put it.” He says. I’m getting angry again. Always riddles with him, always secrets. He could never just say anything, never spit it out, when probably, it would make everything better. Thick headed mule! “Why did you bring me up here Thomas? Another one of your games?” I yell at him. “No Mary. Just ending one. Have a nice life.” He says, walking towards the door. He turns the handle. “Wait.” I say, and he turns around, still not looking me in the eye. “I don’t know what you mean. But I’m guessing we can’t be friends anymore,” I say trying to fight back the tears while digging into my purse. “I have a question now.” I say, hiding the key in the palm of my hand. “What it is?” He asked. “That day. When we went for a walk, when you gave me this key.” I say holding it out. “You don’t have to tell me what it’s for. There’s just something you said that night. I can’t understand what you meant…” I trail off. “Go on…” I said, staring at the key as if stuck in a trance. “You said…you weren’t giving me death stares…that you were curios. About what?” He answers me, eyes still focused on the key. “About you.” He says, turning away. I’m beginning to understand a little. “You don’t want to marry Victoria, do you?” I whisper, just loud enough for him to hear. “No more questions.” He says. “Hold on.” I stop him again, placing the key in his hand.
“It’s better off with you.” I say, walking out before him so he can’t see the tears in my eyes. He was going to marry Victoria, though he didn’t want to. And because he’s going to marry Victoria, we can’t be friends. I hate her more than I ever have! “Let’s go.” I push past Elizabeth, and she follows silently behind me. Luckily we didn’t need to come up with an excuse (not that we had anyway), no one seemed to notice our absence. I walk back over to my mother; I see Victoria not far away and give her my hardest glare, cursing her with my eyes. Happy thoughts, Mary, Happy thoughts. If only I had good news to focus on, instead of a broken hearted friend and a hopeless me. All at once, I hear a faint tinkling sound, and everyone gathers around the piano. It is Ben, hitting a glass, looking as if he’s about to make a toast. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he starts, looking at me, smiling. He’s what I need to be cheered up. I think to myself, never taking my eyes off him. “Today is a very special day,” Ben continues, “I have been planning this for a while now, and I think it’s time I do it.” He puts down his glass and walks towards me. Oh no, the dizziness is returning. Don’t feint, don’t feint, PLEASE don’t feint ! My silent wishes seem to be working. I feel calm again, and regain my composure. Ben stops in front of me. “Miss Mary Thorn,” He says, getting down on one knee, “I’ve known since the moment I saw you that you were the one,” He taking out a box now, “Will you marry me?” He asks, and everything is quiet. I smile as big as I can in my current state, and say: “yes.” For the rest of the evening I’ve been getting congratulated by everyone. Half the people I didn’t even know came over looking very pleased and happy for me. Victoria and Ben came over as well. “Congratulations.” Victoria says, forcing a fake smile, I don’t smile back. “Thanks.” I murmur, wishing her away. I turn to Thomas, “I’m really happy for you.” He says smiling his brilliant smile, and yet he’s never looked so broken. What’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, is breaking my heart. •••
Dear diary, I am engaged to Ben! No, I didn’t dream it, it’s real. My life is finally making sense. My Grandmother is nice to me now, and even Gavan shows more respect. Wedding plans are being thrown all over the place, and I couldn’t be more thrilled…When I’m not thinking about Thomas.
“I better be your bride’s maid!” Elizabeth says to me, while braiding my hair. It’s been a long week, and I’m happy to have reached the blissful end of your Christmas vacation. As promised, Claire, Jessica and I are all spending the night at Elizabeth’s the night before we return to school. “I don’t know how I’ll choose.” I say, looking back from Claire to Elizabeth. “Well you better chose me.” Elizabeth says sternly. “Claire?” I ask, wanting her opinion. “Whatever you want Mary, it’s your wedding after all.” She says smiling innocently. I look over my shoulder to see Elizabeth glaring. Claire is rather good at sucking up. This past week has been pretty hectic and confusing. I’m getting more attention from people who don’t even like me, my mother keeps making wedding plans when the date hasn’t even been set yet, and I’m getting special treatment. I mean, I am really happy; this is what I’ve been dreaming of, but… Well, you read about this kind of stuff in books, or see it in a play. The girl is always so happy and so sure. I’m not sure. I tried talking to my mother about it but she was no help. “It’s always a little scary at first, but you’ll get used to the idea. It’s part of growing up dear.” Is what she had said to me. I love my mom and all, but she’s really no help when I need advice. For the last couple of days I’ve been stuck between daydreaming about Ben, and then thinking about Thomas. I hurt him. And I hurt myself doing it. I didn’t try to help; instead I gave him back the key. I keep replaying his face when Ben had proposed in my head. I’d never thought Thomas liked me that way. But now, it was clear. And to be quite honest with myself—I’m not sure how I feel about him. He’s always made me angry most of the time, always so frustrating. And yet, the other half of my time spent with him…I’ve never felt so alive. I’ve thought about him a lot since our walk back to the school that night. But I’ve always tried to put him to the back of my mind. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard with Ben to distract me. Thinking about both of them now, I only just noticed how truly different they are. Ben is dark, dark skinned, dark eyes, dark hair. Thomas, well, Thomas is almost the opposite. Strange, yet attractive auburn colored hair. Pale skin, as pale as mine, and the bluest eyes. So different and both so beautiful. But it isn’t just their appearances that are opposite. Ben is subtle, serious, mysterious, and enchanting. Thomas is obnoxious yet funny, straight forward, frustrating, charming and breathtaking. If I wasn’t
already engaged to Ben, and Thomas not engaged to Victoria, it would be a very hard decision. And I am only now admitting it. It shall be hard for me to ignore Thomas, ignore what’s there, but I suppose, in time, that it shall pass. When I’m worried about Thomas, Ben is always there to help me forget. He is wonderful, and I’ve no doubt that we shall be incredibly happy together. A happily ever after straight out of a story book fairytale. Almost. “Mary!” Jessica yells from across the room. “I’ve asked you five times!” “Oh, sorry. What did you ask?” I say, a little confused. “Do you want a cup of tea?” She says, rolling her eyes. “Get your head out of the clouds.” “No thanks…on the tea, I mean” I say, trying to recover. “Sure.” Elizabeth teases. “So who were you thinking about? Ben, or Thomas?” She says, and I give her a warning look. I’ve never told her of my feelings for Thomas, why is she saying this? “What?” Claire exclaims, jumping up. “You heard right Claire. Our Mary seems to be in a bit of a pickle.” Elizabeth states, and the girls stare at me open mouthed. “I am not!” I shout at her, hoping they’ll take my side instead of believing Elizabeth. “Please Mary; you really think I didn’t over hear your conversation with Thomas? I was standing at the door for goodness sake! Neither of you said it, but it was pretty clear by the way you talked, and the tears that came after.” She pointed out. I jump at her. Pinning her down to the floor, “You diabolical girl! Keep your mouth shut!” She pushes me off of her laughing. “Mary,” she says, “If you want to listen, you should use words I understand.” She says still laughing. “Enough with your private show.” Claire whines, “Tells us the story. I thought you hated Thomas, Mary, the way you were always going on about how horrible he was.” “I certainly do not have the slightest bit of feeling for Thomas beyond friendship. He saved my life once, and I owe him that. Since then he’s been, er, tolerable. I like Ben. I am marrying Ben!” I shout, louder than necessary. “Denial.” Jessica says, “It’s okay to be in love with two guys.” She then says. In love? Funny she should say that. I don’t love either. I barely know either. “I’m not in love.” I say quietly.
“You sure Mary? I mean, you are marrying Ben.” Elizabeth says, making me feel worse. “Since when do we marry someone we already love?” I say bitterly. “That’s true.” Claire says sadly, and I know I’ve brought down the whole group with my comment. “Sorry.” I mumble, “How about some fun then. Elizabeth, it is your house, what do you propose we do?” Elizabeth looks so excited now, and I know I’ve done good. “How about a bit of gin?” She says wickedly. “No!” The three of us shout at once. “I was only kidding.” Elizabeth says, pouting a little. “Why don’t we go play tennis?” “Outside?” Claire asks. Though I don’t know how she can be surprised, we’ve had much worse ideas than that. “Of course.” Elizabeth says, grabbing her coat and walking out. We all follow…of course. It’s a cold night. Colder than any other night so far. I snuggle my head inside my coat to avoid the icy wind. Felicity is truly mad for dragging us out here. I look at the other cold faces and I can tell that they probably agree. “Who wants to play me first?” Elizabeth asks, racket in hand and a smile on her face. I grab the other racket and curse quietly to myself. “Better get this over and done with.” I say. • Later that night—too late if you ask me, we retreat back the Elizabeth’s big warm room. It is much past our bed time and we are all exhausted from the late tennis rounds, so we don’t talk much before we go to bed. But before we enter Elizabeth’s room, we sneak into the kitchen to take some treats. There are so many, it becomes a hard decision. I’ve never seen so much food in one kitchen before. It’s almost as much as we needed at the ball! But we don’t stay for long. Instead, we settle ourselves in our blankets, and give ourselves away to a good night’s sleep, to be ready to return to Smith’s the next day. But not before having some good old girl talk. Elizabeth has been excited all night, and I know right away that she’s been waiting to share a certain news with us. “Alright Eli, out with it.” I say, snuggling into my blanket. “What?” She asks in all innocence. “The news you have to share.” I say, and the others start asking questions.
“What news?...” “What are you talking about?” “Alright, alright!” Elizabeth shouts, and I can almost hear her smile in the dark. “Well, you know James Franklin, the one who took me to the ball?” She says. “He proposed?!” Jessica jumps up. “No. Be serious, we can’t all be as lucky as Miss Mary here.” She says, teasingly and we all laugh. “No, his mother, Miss’s Franklin has offered to host my coming out party.” She says excitedly. “How fantastic!” I say and give her a hug. Elizabeth has been waiting for some time for someone to offer her coming out party. It couldn’t be anyone related to her of course, and Elizabeth has many important relatives here in London, so finding someone has been tricky for her. I shall not be in need of worrying over my own coming out party…I am engaged and therefore do not need one. What a relief. “Miss’s Franklin is married to a prim minister, twice over, so their family is very high placed in society. It shall be a grand party, the perfect coming out party!” she goes on, and I can’t help but be excited for her. This is indeed a big deal, without this party, her life could come close to being ruined. And seeing how it is such important people throwing it, Elizabeth shall be well known and respected by all. I couldn’t be happier for her. “What about you girls?” I ask Claire and Jessica, “Have you found anyone yet?” Jessica is the first to speak up, “Oh yes, a dear friend of my mothers, I forgot her name already. I don’t suppose it will be anywhere near as great as Elizabeth’s, but with the right people, it could be a hit.” She says. “How fantastic!” Elizabeth says, reaching for her face, kissing her on the cheek. “And you Claire?” She asks before I do. Claire smiles, such a rare thing for her to do, “Yes, Beth Reynolds cousin, Mister Booth and his wife.” She says, and we all run over to embrace her. “I think this is the beginning to four rather exciting lives!” Elizabeth says before we all go to bed. No doubt we all fell asleep smiling that night…I know I did. •••
23Back to school
Dear diary, Today we returned to school. And although we do not have any classes today, we are all required after dinner to go to the church for a ‘special ceremony’ Miss’s Trenchfield says. I
can only imagine how boring this one will be. I guess I always have ways to occupy myself. Well, better get going. Bye.
“Mary! Let’s go!” Claire’s voice louder than ever from behind the door, knocking furiously, trying to get me to come out of the room. “I’m not going!” I yell back while lying down despairingly on my back, on my bed, head facing the ceiling. “But Mary, you must! The congratulatory ceremony is made in your honor. Ben shall be there too. And what about Thomas? I thought he was your friend. This is for him too; do you really want to ruin it for him?” She asks, and stops dead, not saying a word, allowing me to respond. She’s right. Tonight is about more than just me, and I should stop being a baby about it and come out before I ruin everyone else’s night. Especially Thomas. “Fine, I’m coming.” I yell back, and I hear her make a squeal of delight. “I knew you would do the right thing Mary!” Claire says. I had hoped that coming back to school would help me stay more relaxed, give me time to clear my head and focus on nothing. It was a vain hope. We all came back this morning, no classes on the first day, when Miss’s Trenchfield makes an announcement at lunch; she said we shall be having a special ceremony and to meet in the church after dinner. And when dinner came along she had spilled the beans on the surprise. And was I ever surprised. “In the honor of Miss Brooks and Miss Thorn’s recent engagements, we shall give them a congratulatory ceremony this evening, to wish them luck and to celebrate.” She had said, causing those who knew about the engagement to jump up in joy, and those who did not know to swarm around Victoria and I to ask an innumerous amount of useless questions. Straight after dinner, Miss’s Trenchfield sent us to our rooms to get dressed and ready to leave for the church, and I, much to Claire’s repugnance, locked myself in my room instead. Claire has been banging outside the door, trying to convince me to come along for the past half hour. No doubt that everyone was waiting for me in the foyer to leave. And when I enter with Claire, I see that I was right.
“You’d think it took her so long because she wanted to get ready properly to look nice for Ben. But she looks a complete mess.” Meggie whispers to Victoria, loud enough to make sure I heard. Normally this action would cause Meggie to endure a long, ill-mannered, insufferable speech from me the whole walk to the church. But seeing how I’ve no energy to eat or drink lately, arguing was out of the question. And maybe it was for the better. Sure, let them think they’ve won. They’re the ones who look foolish…and it saves me a wicked head ache. And so I kept myself quiet the way to the church, trying my best to smile for those around me, acting as if I’ve never been happier. Which is true, right? Ben is what I’ve been hoping for…what I’ve been waiting for. And I’m receiving a ceremony in that honor, I couldn’t be more pleased. The only thing bringing me down is the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. And the way Victoria always seems to be secretly laughing at something secluded—like her private secret. A dangerous one, which I cannot decipher. The church was not decorated, thank goodness, but I was forced to walk with Victoria down the isle so that we would then meet with Thomas and Ben to walk the rest of the way and stand in front of our church. Could this be any more embarrassing? I doubt it. A simple, ‘how great for you!’ or a ‘congratulations’! would have sufficed plenty for me. But this! A ceremony containing the entire population of Smith’s, and three quarters of them are complete strangers to me; this was definitely over the top. And what bothers me about it is that there is absolutely nothing I could do about it. “Good evening ladies of Smith’s private Academy!” The priest is talking. “We are all gathered to share some special news of our friends here Miss Victoria Brooks and Miss Mary Thorn…” I try to block out the rest of his introduction and focus my thoughts elsewhere, like Ben’s hand placed lightly on my back, comforting me while we stand in front of all these people. I then look to Victoria, she’s smiling as she was on the night that Thomas had proposed. Clearly she is much enjoying the attention she’s getting from it all. Thomas looks down at her and see’s her smile, and he smiles genuinely back. His smile doesn’t seem to be broken anymore…not like “mine. “And for a special treat…” It’s Miss’s Trenchfield speaking now, “I would like these two young ladies to share their story of how it happened.” A round of applause goes around at this. Victoria glides across the floor to stand center of the crowd. She opens her mouth to start her story.
“As you all know,” She begins and I can already feel my stomach ache return with a vengeance, “Mister Benet here has been courting me for quite some time. It was simply meant to be you could say. A romantic he is. Sending me gifts and all the while remaining the perfect gentlemen.” She pauses for a breath, all the while never once glancing at her ‘beloved fiancé’ which strikes me as odd. For someone completely in love with him, she sure doesn’t pay much attention. Self obsession is a curse; Victoria is living proof of that. “And well, at the Christmas concert, we had just finished performing. Mister Benet took my hand and led me to center stage in front of everyone,” Every girl in the building let’s out a big ‘awe!’ making me even more sick. Victoria, being pleased at this reaction from her crowd does not take a moment’s pause. “He got down on one knee, and that’s how he did it. That’s how he proposed.” She’s smiling widely at her intently listening crowd, who have now let out more ‘awes’ and started clapping. My turn. I take Victoria’s spot in the front, preparing myself for a tale that I am not ready to tell. I clear my throat, and begin in the loudest voice I can manage. I have to make this good, or else Victoria wins again. “Well, you see Mister Kingston here,” I turn around and flash a smile to Ben who smiles broadly back, “was one of our instructors for choir. And as is obvious, caught my attention straight away.” Nods of agreement go around the girls. Just breathe Mary. “I was completely ecstatic when he asked me to our ball, and well, when he told me he had liked me…” I stop short, I feel a hand around me, I glance back and it is Ben. He really is very sweet. I’m lucky to have him. More ‘awes’ come from the crowd. “His family was hosting their annual tea this Christmas break. He gathered everyone around the piano to ask me to marry him. And it was no question whether I’d say yes or not.” I smile again at Ben, catching Thomas’s eye on the way. He was smiling. Well, good. He deserves happiness. Another round of applause. My thoughts stray elsewhere for the rest of the evening, and before I know it…it’s the next day. I wake up to the sun shinning brightly through my window, and I can’t help but feel light headed and giddy because of the sunshine. I see Claire is already up and smiling as well. “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?” I note and she never stops smiling. “Oh yes,” She says, “I’ve received a letter from Mister Tigers.” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the sunshine that was making her so happy, but a boy will do. “Claire, that’s wonderful! What does it say?”
Her face turns red and she turns away, smile still stuck on her face, “He’s invited me for tea this weekend coming.” She says and I jump from my bed to hug her. “It’s going to be a great day.” I say before getting ready myself. • Claire and I meet Jessica and Elizabeth at the bottom of the stairs to walk into the great hall together for breakfast. I notice every girl at their seats smiling and enjoying the nice day. We find our table, say grace and await our breakfast. “Oh, Claire, did you tell Elizabeth and Jessica of your fantastic news yet?” I ask publicly, for I know that she wouldn’t share a word about her letter unless mildly forced to. “N-no, I will later.” She states shyly, putting her head down. You know, sometimes her shyness can be a real bother. If you have good news to share with your friends, SHARE IT! “Nonsense, it will make a lovely breakfast topic.” I say, pressing her, hoping it won’t take her long to give in. “I received a letter…” She says in a small voice. “Come now Claire, I can’t hear you when you insist on speaking as quiet as a mouse!” Elizabeth says. “Mister Tigers sent me a letter…he uh, wants me to join him f-for tea, this Saturday.” She finally says, keeping her head down all the while. “How marvellous!” Jessica exclaims with a smile. “You’ll be his bride yet!” Elizabeth joins in. I can see Victoria and the others looking at us from across the table. I do not see why Miss’s Trenchfield insisted that we seat across from each other. She probably had hoped we’d become friends. What a laugh. “Mister Jessie Tigers?” Victoria inquires. I want to tell her to turn her face back to her food and mind her own business; But Miss’s Trenchfield is sitting not far from us, and another detention earned is not worth it. “Y-yes.” Claire avoids looking at Victoria as she answers. I look at Laura and can see her face reddening fast. Did I miss something? “Impossible.” Laura states, looking as if she’s about to cry. “Claire, what’s going on?” I whisper privately to her. She looks at me wide eyed.
“At the ball,” She starts, making sure no one else can hear, we turn our heads away from the table. It’s rude, we know it, but I need answers. “Or rather, before it,” She resumes, “Laura had been saying that she would be attending the ball with Mr. Tigers, and well, he had never asked her…he asked me. She hasn’t been taking it very well.” So that’s what’s going on, another jealousy problem. I never would have guessed. Laura looked completely pleased with her date at the ball, unless it was just a show. “Why did you not tell any of us?” I say turning back around, not taking a care to the volume of my voice. "We would have gladly taken care of it.” I say, looking straight at Laura. Victoria sees this and glares my way. “It’s just so sad.” Victoria then surprises me by saying. She’s now looking at Claire, with a sympathetic look on her face. What is she up to? “What is?” Meggie asks her leader. “Why, isn’t it obvious?” Victoria resumes, "Our poor Claire here feels she is obliged to lie about her meetings with important men. We did try to give you hope dear, but you’ve taken it too far. And now everyone will know how pathetic you really are. You and your friends.” Victoria says, now looking at Claire with as much hate as she usually looks at me with. “What are you talking about?” I demand, “Do you even hear yourself? You gave Claire hope, of what? You are completely delusional.” I say, but Victoria just smiles. I know that she’s about to lie just by the looks on her piers faces. Fear. “Hope of anyone ever showing even the slightest interest in her.” The witch answers. “When Laura had told Mr. Tigers about the dance, he didn’t waste a second to ask her. But we all knew of Claire’s little crush, and decided to convince him to take her to the ball, just to give her hope. “She’s smiling now, and it’s taking all my strength not to jump across the table and strangle her here and now. “And now I guess she’s making up stories to make it seem as if he actually showed any interest. How sad.” She finishes. Everyone at the table has been listening; they all look horrified, as if they don’t know who to believe. I can’t believe Victoria would try to ruin Claire’s reputation this way just to save her friend from personal embarrassment. Someone needs to show her how to behave properly, and to tell the truth. I swear telling lies is all she knows how to do. “Bu-but I’m not l-lying.” Claire stutters, and I can see the tears swelling up in her eyes. Be strong Claire. I think in my head as loud as I can, as if she could hear my thoughts. I don’t blame her for crying, I would do the same.
“We’ll see who’s lying,” I say standing up, “This Saturday, when Mr. Tigers comes to get Claire.” Claire’s face turns from hopeless to hopeful. The letter she received is a real one, and there’s no way Victoria get her paws around that…could she? “Yes.” Victoria answers, “We shall see.” She’s still smiling. And I hate to admit it, but her certainty scares me. All I can do is hope she doesn’t have some trick up her sleeve to ensure that Jessie Tigers does not show up. But really, I don’t see a way how she could. This logic comforts me, and I focus on it for the rest of breakfast. We pass through our classes regularly. Though we did not work as hard as usual, for it is our first day of classes since returning. Already I cannot wait for my season to come and to be rid of this school and its wretched students. We come here to be transformed and taught how a proper lady is to act and react…instead it creates monsters. And its leader is Victoria. I reach to my neck instinctively for comfort, but soon find disappointment when I realise that I am not longer in possession of the key that Thomas had given me. So instead I walk alone up to my room, to admire the bouquet of flowers that Ben had once given me before the ball. Was it really only a few weeks ago? It feels like forever had passed since then. I sit at the ledge of my window and stroke the flower peddles gently, carefully, to make sure they do not break. I’m surprised they are still alive. Flowers do not usually last that long. But here they are, alive and strong, a constant reminder of Ben. Someone who I wanted more than anything, but now that I have him, I do not want him as much. How bizarre is that? How could I not love someone who is too good for me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Well, I may not love him…yet, that is “Love grows.” My mother had told me. And I know she is right. I really really like Ben. It’s only a matter of time that I fall in love with him. Besides, things are going far too well for anything to go wrong. I mean, look, Elizabeth shall have the coming out party of the year, allowing her to be set for life; Mr. Tigers is showing great interest in our Claire, and I am getting engaged. Things couldn’t be better. But don’t trust how things look on paper… My train of thought is broken by the sound of hustling and sobbing outside. I walk out of my room curios about what is going on. When I step through the girls huddled around the crying Victoria to see what is wrong, Victoria stands up and points at me. “You!” She accuses me; of what, I do not know, but she seems to think
her misery is my fault. If only that such honour could be true. “This is all your doing!” She says, and I stand there motionless, afraid to ask questions.
I do not know what has happened to Victoria, but she seems to think it was my fault. Hardly a surprise. I swear if the sun fell and burnt the earth she’d find a way to blame it on me. Although I do hope her blame does not lead me into trouble. I’m tired of walking around and having accusing eyes stare at me everywhere I go. I don’t even know what’s going on! Well, it’s the weekend now, so we don’t have classes, at least that’s one thing to look forward to.
We girls find ourselves in the spare room once again, sitting at a table by the fireplace having tea and discussing certain affairs…like Victoria. “I think you should just ask her what you did, Mary.” Elizabeth says, thinking she’s actually given me good advice. “But I didn’t do anything!” I moan and pretend to bang my head on the table. The other girls laugh, though I didn’t mean for it to be a joke. Chelsea Turner and Beth Reynolds walk passed us, eyeing me specifically and suspiciously. “Do you see that? That’s what I’ve been going through all week!” I complain again. “It isn’t really that bad.” Claire soothes. “At least Victoria hasn’t told Miss’s Trenchfield what you did.” Jessica says. “But I didn’t—” “Miss Thorn! You better come with me.” I turn around and see that it is Miss’s Trenchfield speaking to me. Not that I hadn’t recognise her voice, I had just hoped it was my imagination. “Yes ma’am.” I say, and obediently follow her out, but not before sending a panicked look to my friends. Well, I think to myself, looking on the bright side of this mess, At least I’ll get to know what I ‘supposedly’ did wrong. “In here,” Miss’s Trenchfield beckons me into her office. “Take a seat.” And I do.
Miss’s Trenchfield sits across from me, in what looks like a far more comfortable chair that I’m sitting in. I hope that this shan’t take long for fear I might go insane with this uncomfortable wood against my back. I try my best to make myself commodious with the circumstances, while Miss’s Trenchfield takes a deep breath. “I suspect you know what this is about.” She says to me. I let out a deep breath of my own before answering. “Victoria.” I answer simply. “Yes.” She says, “Now, I know you and Victoria do not get along, and I can see that you’ve made friends with Thomas. Now Mary, Victoria’s story seems very likely, and I’m going to ask you to tell me the truth.” She said, looking more serious than ever. “You have my word.” I barely choke out the words. What on earth has Victoria been saying! “Did you tell a certain lie to Thomas to convince him to break the engagement with Victoria?” She asks me, and I am stunned. Thomas broke the engagement? I hate to feel a little bolt of joy at this news, but he is my friend, and Victoria is quite the monster. He can do much better. “What are you talking about? What sort of lie?” I ask. “Just answer the question Miss Thorn.” She says, stopping me in my tracks. “Of course not, you may ask Mister Benet yourself. The last time I talked to him was when he had congratulated me on my engagement with Mister Kingston.” I say, and Miss’s Trenchfield lets out a sigh of what looks like relief on her face. “What sort of lie did she say?” I ask, still curios of the accusation placed against me. “I know I shouldn’t press, it’s just that I would understand the accusing glares I keep getting if I knew what they all thought I did.” “I understand your position Miss Thorn. Unfortunately, Miss Brooks is unwilling to share the reason Mister Benet broke the engagement. She simply stated that you lied to him to convince him to break the engagement. Not another word out of her or her piers; which I am assuming they know if they are treating you so inadequately.” “Oh.” Was all I could say, curiosity raising with every breath I take. “I appreciate your cooperation Miss Thorn.” She says to me, opening the door, allowing me to resume my tea and my conversation, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, I shall try to fix this as much as I can. Miss Brooks is upset and feels she needs someone to blame, and unfortunately you are the first one in line.” She finishes rather brutally. At least she’s honest.
I find my friends exactly how I left them, sipping their tea and chatting amiably amongst each other. Only Claire sits quietly, holding her letter from Mr. Tigers; the one inviting her to tea on Saturday (which happens to be today), at one O’ clock. Claire and I instantaneously glance at the grandfather clock in unison. 12:45, or almost anyway. In fifteen minutes Jessie Tigers will show up for Claire, and the faces of Victoria and her friends shall fall. They should have known then to make such a bet to try and ruin Claire’s reputation like that. How could they have possibly stopped Mr. Tigers from coming? And now they will be the ones to experience public embarrassment for lying and trying to make us look like fools. When you play with a fire that big, you will undeniably get burned. And unfortunately, Victoria is only now learning that lesson. The three girls look up at me, only noticing my standing there now. “Oh Mary!” Jessica shouts. “So, what was it? Did you get in trouble?” Leave it to Elizabeth to ask for the juicy details without beating around the bush. “That’s the weird part…” I say sitting down, “She refused to tell Miss’s Trenchfield what I ‘lied’ about. And she certainly isn’t likely to tell me. And no I am not in trouble” I finish. “What do you mean ‘lied about’?” Claire asks and I look at me friends, all wearing confused faces. It is only now that I bright light lights up in my head. They don’t know! “I forgot to tell you…” I start and they all lean in with eagerness and interest. “Thomas broke his engagement with Victoria.” I say, and they all gasp. “You’re lying!” Jessica says, looking disbelievingly at me. I simply shake my head ‘no’ as a way of answering; and the girls keep their surprised faces. Elizabeth is the first to break the trance by sitting back, looking as comfortable as possible, wearing a smug smile across her face. “What?” I ask her, wondering what she could possibly be thinking. She doesn’t answer at first, and all is silent. Elizabeth just keeps smiling, until she finally answers— “I always knew my cousin had a bit of brains somewhere in that thick head of his.” She says, breaking the silence…it certainly did the trick. Claire lets out the breath she’s been holding in and leans back against her chair. “Wow,” She finally says, “That’s big.” “Quite.” I agreed. “So what does any of this have to do with you?” Elizabeth then asks, putting us on our original topic.
“She’s telling everyone, including administration, that I somehow convinced Thomas of a certain lie to get him to break the engagement.” I answer. “But you don’t know what the certain ‘lie’ you told is?” Jessica asks me, trying to clear all the confusion. “No. She won’t even tell Miss’s Trenchfield…but she told all her friends and the other girls in our grade.” I say. “Odd.” Elizabeth remarks. “It sounds to me,” Jessica says, “that the allegations that Thomas made against Victoria are true and that Victoria won’t tell you or the administration what it is so that no one looks into it. Because if someone did look into it, she would be found out (Whatever she did, or is doing, to make Thomas break the engagement.), and the last thing she wants is to be ruined in society.” She pauses and we all look at her stunned. “And,” She continues, “She told her friends and the others that you lied to Thomas about Victoria to make him break the engagement, to make people feel sorry for her and turn you into the bad guy. Also to save her reputation. Obviously what Thomas says she did is pretty big, and she doesn’t want anyone thinking that it is true.” She lets out a big sigh after this vivid explanation. The only thought that I keep repeating over and over again in my head is: She’s right. I can’t believe I never thought of that conclusion myself. “Wow, that actually makes perfect sense Jessica.” Elizabeth says after—looking incredulous. “And so,” I begin, “The only thing left to do, is find out why Thomas broke the engagement in the first place, and we have the missing piece of the puzzle. With that, we may perhaps prove my innocence to the other girls, and justice shall be served.” They all nod sheepishly as they follow me up and out of the room. They do not ask any questions, for they know where I am taking them… to Victoria. I glance back to see Claire still watching the clock. I’d forgotten about her rendez vous with Mr. Tigers. We have ten minutes to find Victoria, spit the truth out of her before Claire has to leave. And if we fail, I have complete trust that Thomas will tell me himself. We pass through the foyer to go up stairs to Victoria’s room, but as luck would have it, we didn’t even have to walk to her room. There she was, in the foyer with her friends gathered around her, patting her back soothingly. I grab Victoria roughly by the arm and lead her into a corner. I peer into her face to find that she in fact had not been crying, she was only putting on a show. That vile girl.
“I’ve no time for this Mary.” She says, and then glances over her shoulder to make sure no one watches and she gives a laugh, “I’m too busy mourning over my broken engagement that you caused.” She turns to leave, but I immediately stop her. “You know as well as I that I did no such thing. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to know why Thomas broke the engagement. Or rather, what lie I apparently told him to cause it all.” I say, looking at her sternly, but it doesn’t seem to bother her at all. “As much as I would love to do that Mary, I really can’t. And as much as you think my life has turned to crap and you’re about to live your fairy tale…you should probably think it over.” She says as she breaks from my grip and walks over to her friends. “I do not see any sing of Mister Tigers. Were you lying after all Claire?” Victoria calls out as I make my way over back to my friends, standing across from them. “No,” I say, “She wasn’t, it is not yet one O’clock, he shall be here any second.” And just as I finish, the door bell is rung. I give a look to Victoria and her half-witted friends as if to say: I told you so and walk over to the door to open it. To my surprise, Victoria does not look panicked in the least. This worries me. To add to my surprise, when I open the door I do not find Mr. Tigers standing there with a bouquet of flowers meant for Claire as I imagined. Instead, I find a tall and skinny old man with a note in his hand. “Is there a Miss Claire Milton here?” He asks, looking about. Claire steps up shyly. “Y-yes.” She answers and he hands her the note. “Mister Jessie Tigers sends his apologies, but he shan’t be able to make your tea gathering. Something came up. I just gave you the note confirming it.” And with that he shuts the door behind him leaving everyone speechless…except for me. “You cow!” I shout in Victoria’s face, “I ought to strangle you right here for what you did to my friend!” “What I did?” She smiles, “She shouldn’t have told such awful lies. Obviously he never planned to come as I predicted. First you ruin my engagement, and then you try and blame me for this! It is too much Mary.” She says, laughing a little and walks away with her friends. I would have been able to handle it…I’m sure I would, if it had not been for her whispering to her friends: “Such stupid girls.” She didn’t know I heard it, of course…at least not until I completely lost it. I ran up to her and pulled the hair from the back of her head to pull her down…it worked. She screeched in pain before standing back up and slapping me in the face. My cheek is stinging from it, and she sees me wince in pain and starts to laugh. I couldn’t help it…this was the last straw; I punched her in the face as hard as I could. Her head turns and
she places her hands on her face. I can see blood squeeze its way through the cracks between her fingers. Her friends run to her in panic and call out for Miss’s Trenchfield who is there right away. “What on earth—″ She begins, looking completely shocked at the sight of us…especially Victoria, full of her own blood. “It was Mary!” Laura shouts, “She hit her!” Miss’s Trenchfield looks at me, and I put my head down. “This doesn’t look good, Mary.” She says to me and I can’t even nod. I follow her out of the room and back into her office. • I told Miss’s Trenchfield everything; I didn’t want to leave anything out. My best way out of this one is to tell the truth. After Victoria cleaned herself up, she came in as well to tell her side of the story, which was an almost completely different tale. So for other reference, she brought in our friends by surprise, one by one, alone to ask them each a question. Since I had told Miss’s Trenchfield the truth, and so did my friends, thank goodness, we were all on the same page, and Miss’s Trenchfield seemed pleased. And apparently the other girls had told different versions from mine and Victoria’s, therefore they all got detention; for a week they would have to miss out on their free period and their tea time. My friends were completely home free, innocent bystanders who told the truth. But since I did hit Victoria (not to mention make her bleed) I have one detention, apart from the other girls. And I must admit, it was completely worth it. •
Dear Mother, Father, Grandmother and Emily, I know it has been a while since I’ve written to you all, but I’ve also just spent the last two weeks with you. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve just stepped out of detention with Miss’s Trenchfield; I had gotten into a fight with Victoria, it’s a long story. I miss you all terribly, and I needed to write, things have been very hectic, and all I want is to know that you are there. The day we came back, Miss’s
Trenchfield held a congratulatory ceremony for Mr. Kingston and I, and Victoria and Mr. Benet… which reminds me, Mr. Benet broke their engagement. So it looks like I’m the first to get married after all grandmother. Well, lots of love, I miss you all. P.s- Em, I’ve got a new painting for you. With love from Mary Thorn
I give my note to Anne, our maid, so that she could post it for me. This is what I’ve spent my night doing, writing and re-writing letters. This one seems to be okay, and after ten letters, it’s the one I finally came up with. After a rough week, I climb up to my room, fall onto my bed and give myself over to the blissfulness of my dreams. •••
25A Trip to the Country
Dear diary, A week has passed since the fight with Victoria, and since they’ve paid their due of detention, they too, shall be joining us on our trip to the country. Though I cannot say that I am excited about this particular little outing… We are visiting a Monsieur Duval; he is hosting this get together in honor of his new position of being the new ambassador of France. Apparently he had bought his country estate many years ago, and barely visits London, but since his new title, he’s been hosting parties everywhere he can. We are all very pleased for Monsieur Duval and we are to smile and congratulate him…yes, this should be grand.
I wake up to Claire staring at me from the desk. “What are you doing?” I ask her. “Waiting…this came for you this morning, you’d better hurry Mary, and we’re leaving in less than an hour.” She holds out an unopened letter for me. Wow, I think to myself, while lazily getting up from my bed, this is the fastest my parents have every written be back. I turn the letter open and find that it is not from my family at all… but from someone entirely different, someone I’ve been longing to speak with ever since my fight with Victoria. I had, of course sent him a secret letter; inquiring about his canceled engagement…this must be his reply.
“What is it?” Claire asks me. “I saw who it’s from.” She then asks, making it impossible for me to lie to her about it now. “It should be the letter containing the reason why Victoria broke the engagement…but we shall have to wait and see. First I want to get ready and go eat.” All this had taken no time at all. For once I was not in the least worried about my appearance in an important outing. Since we are going to the country, I just made sure to wear something comfortable and practical. The fact that we’ve been having none stop appearances and events to attend to makes me nervous, for I know that once I start my life…that will be my life. Fancy teas, numerous balls, and important celebrations. Though it doesn’t appeal to me all that much, I suppose as long as I have suitable company (meaning friends, or a husband), it could all be bearable, and perhaps even enjoyable. This one on the other hand is completely impossible to predict. Depending on who shall be there, and what we shall be doing, I suppose anything can happen since we’ve been given no kind of instruction except for the time place and the reason for upholding this event. Personally, I have never heard of Monsieur Duval…probably because he comes from France; although from what I understand he has many important connections here in London. And I suppose since his new title is ambassador of France, he must be very important indeed, and we are very lucky indeed to be invited to his celebration. “I hear we are the only girl’s school invited.” Meggie states proudly. I cannot say that I am not proud myself. Smith’s Academy has been receding in popularity each passing year; it’s about time we reign on top. It is not far from closing permanently with all the other boarding schools opening, and I can’t imagine what it would do to Miss’s Trenchfield if such a thing were to happen. I shake the thought from my mind and turn to Elizabeth. “What do you think we shall be doing?” I ask her, wondering if she would have any idea herself, seeing how I do not. “Milking cows and feeding chickens!” She says laughing outrageously, and I can’t help but laugh with her. “It’s a celebration Eli! We shall not even near the animals! We don’t even know if he has any, seeing how he is never here.” Jessica says, laughing along with us; which I am thankful for. She’s been in such a state, her mother just died of tuberclerosis, so sad. Claire just sits quietly, looking out of the window of the carriage. We’ve been traveling for some time, and I doubt it shall be long until we arrive yet.
“Come Claire, this is your first trip to the country. Show some excitement!” I say, shaking her a little, trying to get her out of her current state. “Foul smelling dirt and a chicken coop. Big deal.” She says, continuing to pout. I hate that she’s like this…not that I can blame her. Everyone in school believes that Jessie Tigers was simply doing an act of charity when he brought her to our ball since he stood her up last Saturday. Jessica, Elizabeth, Claire and I are the only ones who know that Victoria played part in making sure Claire was stood up. I only wish I knew how she did it so I can redeem Claire’s name. No one answers Claire when she says this; instead we all stare out the window to the surrounding trees covered in snow, looking as lovely a sight as ever. “Alright girls, here we are.” The driver calls, and we all step outside. I’ve just made a new discovery about myself…I love the country. The fresh air, the beautiful tree’s…the big yards. It’s beautiful in the winter; I can’t imagine coming here in the summer—it must be absolutely amazing! “Ah, les filles sont ici! Come come, we shall seat you in the back yard and have some tea, shall we?” It is, who I am guessing is, Monsieur Duval who greets us in the front. He leads us around his big estate, which is made of brick and looks just like a normal country house. “This doesn’t look like a country house!” Victoria whispers to make sure Monsieur Duval does not hear her. “What do you think it is supposed to look like?” I ask, rudely (purposely), “A barn?” I ask, and she does not answer. I realize that she had thought it was going to look like a barn. She obviously doesn’t get out much. Monsieur Duval, I note, is not in possession of a pig sty, chicken coup, or anything else of the sort. The only animal, it seems, he is in possession of is horses, I not as we pass the stables. His back yard, like in any other country estate, is very large. I see that he has set up tables and chairs for us to sit. But to my surprise he does not lead us to the chairs outside. He leads us into the house, from the back, through French doors (so very appropriate for a French man) to a large sun room, half filled with other guests. I thought we were early…I can’t fathom what time the others here must have arrived at. Most, of course, I do not recognize…those that I do recognize, I know very well. My grandmother is here, chatting amongst her equally old friends. I try not to stare in hopes that she shall not see me, at least not right away. I also see Elizabeth’s family; hardly unusual, for her family is very high in society, and when I say Elizabeth’s family, I mean everyone…including Thomas and his. Though I doubt Thomas came with his family when I see Sir Henry Laird, with Miss Logan at his side, and some of the other men from Briar Academy as well.
Monsieur Duval gives a little grunt to grab our attention. “May I present Madame Duval, my wife.” He says in a heavy French accent. “Enchanter Mesdemoiselles!” She says, greeting us with a warm smile, “How very honored we are for you to grace us with your presence.” She then says. “Au Contraire Madame,” Elizabeth says, proud of her much improved French, “It is we who are honored.” She says cleverly, getting on Monsieur and Madame Duval’s good side. Way to go Elizabeth. The host and hostess laugh at this and then lead us to our own tables. I was in the understanding that I would not be able to avoid my grandmother for a long period of time; and I see that I had guessed right when I see her striding towards our table in a hurry. “Mary, why did you not tell me that you would be here?” She asks once beside me. “I had not knowledge of this visit until after I sent you my letter, grandmother.” “Oh yes, of course dear,” She says, probably feeling a little foolish, “We were going to write back at once, but things just got so busy… Marissa’s pregnant you know.” “No. I didn’t.” I say bitterly. That is probably the most important news I’ve heard in a while, and my family has the audacity to keep it from me. “Well, it is wonderful news.” She says, eyeing me, almost a warming to behave. She knows I have not taken a liking to Marissa, my brother’s wife. This news brings me no joy. “At least it will grow up rich.” I grumble, purposefully trying to annoy my grandmother so that she may leave. “I expect you to behave.” She leans over and whispers sternly to me before smiling at our audience and then leaving again. The purpose of family is to treat and love each other like family…it’s a shame I shall never get to experience that myself. The other guests start arriving one after another. Miss’s Trenchfield seems to know every single one of the people being lead into the room by Monsieur Duval. She tells us all their names, and we learn that there are very important people here indeed. The Duke of Winchester, Viscounts, Political leaders, and many more. “There she is!” Elizabeth says with excitement. “Who?” I ask, confused. “Miss’s Franklin, oh, and there’s her husband…I don’t suppose James will be here. That’s a shame.” She turns her head back to Miss’s Trenchfield.
I suddenly realize what she is talking about. Miss’s Franklin, James’ mother, the one married to a prime minister, better know to us as the one hosting Elizabeth’s coming out party. The gathering that will set her life. I soon bore of learning about people I do not know, and do not wish to know. I dig into my bag in hopes of finding a paper and a pen to doodle. But all I find is the unread letter from Thomas that I had shoved in there earlier. Well, it looks like I found something to do. “Miss’s Trenchfield,” I say in the lowest voice possible, “Where can I go to use the facilities?” I ask and I suddenly here a loud voice behind me. “Ah oui!” Monsieur Duval exclaims, “How could I forget? Come Mademoiselle, my wife shall be your escort.” He says, handing me over to his wife. “Viens.” She says, and I follow her out of the sunroom into a hallway with my head down. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper public gathering without me getting embarrassed. “Voilà,” She says opening the bathroom door. “I must return, but I shall send someone back here to escort you back.” She says before scurrying off towards the way we came. The bathroom is as I might have guessed, enormous like everything else here. I move some towels from a bench so that I have somewhere to sit as I read the letter. I open the envelope and read carefully, making sure not to miss anything—
Dear Miss Thorn, I am touched at your concern, but I am afraid it would be impossible fore me to share the reason for my canceled engagement with Miss Brooks. I do not really feel I owe you an explanation, though I am sorry for your position in this, in more ways than you can imagine. I hope you can understand, and I hope you can respect my silence. I wish you a good life. Fondly, Mister Thomas Benet.
What? He can’t be serious! I am his friend, or was once. He can’t keep something like this. Well, apparently he doesn’t care for me anymore; he made that clear in his letter. I should just let it go. If only the other girls in my class would. I sigh overwhelmed by bad luck. Nothing is going right… nothing ever does. I jump at a sudden knock at the door. “Mary, are you in there?” It’s my grandmother’s voice. Of course she has to be the one to escort me back. “Yes grandmother, I shall be out in a second.” I yell back, quickly placing the towels as I found them. I walk to the door, scratching my itchy neck around my necklace. “Are you alright?” My grandmother asks when I come out. “Perfect.” I reply, and we both walk back into the now filled sun room. I wonder how long I’ve been gone for it to have filled to completely. “Mary,” Elizabeth says pulling out my chair, “Quick, sit down, Madame Duval is about to make a toast for her husband.” I sit down in silence, and stay quiet like everyone else, as Madame Duval makes her speech. It was quite hard to understand a word she said with that heavy accent of hers. But I listened carefully, acting as if I’ve never been more interested in someone speaking. When she finishes we all applaud and start to get served. “Have you talked to Ben yet?” Jessica asks me. “No.” I say, just remembering that he is here also. “You will probably get the chance to later.” She says, obviously trying to reassure me. Perhaps. I think to myself. Lunch was filled with good food and good conversation, Miss’s Trenchfield is reliable for a good topic. We’ve all been chatting and laughing none stops the entire time. Well, all except for Claire, who’s been sulking even more since Jessie Tigers and his family had arrived. I plan on having a little talk with Mr. Tigers at the first opportunity I get. I can only hope that he shall be more cooperative to share information regarding Victoria than Thomas was. Soon enough when conversation becomes dull around the room, Monsieur Duval invites us to grab our coats to join him outside for better socializing and fresh air.
Monsieur Duval has also taken the liberty to take out the horses, and some of the men jump on and lead the horses to the riding area (which is fenced in of course), to take a little ride. Claire, Elizabeth and Jessica and I walk over to the fence, not allowing ourselves to stray too far from our chaperone to watch the men ride. I soon retire to one of the tables to eat a cupcake from a tray placed on top. I sit in one of the chairs alone. I may look stupid, but I am also very tired. I hear someone come up behind me. It’s Thomas. My first reaction when I see him is of course to strangle him for being so useless in information that I am in need of. But I soon remember myself, and know that I must behave for the sake of my reputation. “Are you enjoying yourself?” He asks in a low, deep voice, enough to give me goose bumps. Put him out of your mind Mary! “Yes, it is a rather grand estate, don’t you agree?” I say politely, keeping my head facing front so that I do not have to look at him. Though it doesn’t help. He steps closer—close enough for me to feel his warmth on my back. “Yes, quite.” He agrees. And then I feel his hand on my back, lightly tracing lines up and down. I close my eyes. I should tell him to stop, this is inappropriate, and if someone should see… His hand moves up to my neck, and he rubs it gently, then moving his fingers through my hair. “Enjoy the rest of your day.” He whispers in my ear before leaving me to stand with Sir Laird. What was that? More games? Always games with Thomas, one can never trust a man like him. I resume to my spot with my friends, leaning against the fence. On my way over I had noticed Mr. Tigers standing not far, conveniently alone… “Are you going to speak with Mr. Tigers Claire, or shall I?” I ask Claire, tired of trying to avoid the topic. “Mary—don’t…” She pleads, but I will not listen. “You may not want to defend yourself Claire, but I will not let Victoria humiliate you the way she has. I am going to right this, and there isn’t a thing you can say to stop me.” I say. She hangs her head in defeat. “I agree with Mary Claire,” Elizabeth says, pulling up her chin, “We have to know what Victoria said to Jessie. It could be bad, and it could be spreading all over London as far as we know.” She says, and I see a
tear slide down Claire’s tanned cheek. It truly pains me to see my friend go through such pain, and it is then that I know I cannot waste another minute. “If anyone should ask, I am with my grandmother.” I say before stomping off. I spot Jessie Tigers by the stack of hay near the stables. He is alone, thank goodness, and I quickly steer him to the side of the stable. “What the bloody hell—″ he begins, but doesn’t get far. “Shhhh! I say covering his mouth, “You know what will be said of us if we get caught.” I say, and he nods his head. I let go of his mouth. “My name is Mary Thorn, and I am a friend of Claire Milton.” I say, introducing myself. “I don’t know what this is about, but Claire—″ I cut him off again. “What did Victoria Brooks tell you about my friend? Why did you cancel your tea date?” I demand. He gives me a weird look, “It’s hardly any of your business he says, causing me to be even more angry. I grab his wrist and twist it far enough to make him call out in pain. “You will tell me.” I say as he rubs his wrist when I let go. “Alright. Look, I don’t know if you are aware of Claire’s reputation with men…” He says, cutting short allowing me to answer. “No.” I say, “Because she doesn’t have one.” He shakes his head, “I’m sorry. I really liked her, but I have to believe my sources.” He says. “Victoria.” I say simply. “And her brother.” He finishes. I look at him in astonishment. “What?” I ask, confused. “Victoria, uh—Miss Brooks had written me a letter containing information about Claire—Miss Milton’s, uh, activities, with men…” “That’s…” He cuts me off this time. “And then,” he continues, “Joshua Brooks…Miss Brooks’ brother pays me a visit, telling me that he, uh, and Miss Milton…they, well, you know. And that his friends had too. I could not associate myself with a… a whore.” He said, and I slapped him. “Are you insane? Have you met Claire? She would never do such a thing.” I yell, and he silences me pressing his hand hard against my mouth. “You cannot change my mind. The visit from Mister Brooks was proof enough for me. I’m sorry; it must be hard to find this out about your friend. You’ll do well to stay away from her.” He says and ten walks away. I stand still in place, completely bewildered by what I’d just heard. Victoria actually went as far as getting her brother involved. Rumors are being spread about Claire sleeping with many different men.
This is horrifying. How am I ever going to tell Claire? Her heart shall be broken t=to pieces no doubt…I only wish there was something I could do. There is a sudden neighing sound, loud and constant coming from one of the horses…people are screaming and I run back to see what is going on. One of the horses, with a man still holding on for dear life, had jumped the fence and is running, and jumping about as if gone insane. He’s trying to bump off the man from his back; this horse is clearly not tamed yet. No wonder people are yelling; if the man falls off, it could mean his death. I stand beside my friends, as we are all watching and waiting to see what shall happen. The horse finally manages to kick off the man from his back and the man takes a terrible fall into the cold snow. The horse takes off into the field as Thomas and Sir Laird run to the man’s side. I now recognize the man as one of the boys from Briar Academy. I watch Thomas as he lifts the man, who is alive, thank goodness, and place him on one of the tables. He is talking to him soothingly as Sir Laird checks for wounds. “You love him.” Elizabeth whispers in my ear. I turn around furious, “You know very well that I’ve no feelings for Mister Benet.” I say, purposefully using Thomas’ formal name to make my point clear. It probably would have worked, if it weren’t for one minor thing… “Hah, I didn’t even say Thomas’ name.” Elizabeth says with a smile. And I grunt at her. “Well you were looking at him, so I assumed…” I try to defend myself, but it doesn’t work. “No,” Elizabeth says, still smiling, “You were looking at him.” She says, before skipping off to Thomas’ side to see if the wounded man is okay. It turns out he is. After this is announced everyone returns to their conversation and activities, while the horses are being placed back into the stall. “So what did he say?” Claire startles me. “Oh…I…” I begin, but I’m afraid there’s no why I’d have to heart to tell her. “You couldn’t convince him to tell you right? Just like Thomas?” She says looking sad. “It seems the boys won’t talk today.” I lie, and I can see the disappointment on her face.
It’s better than her heart being as broken as it would be if I told her the truth. I think to myself. Even so…it’s killing me, lying to my friend like this. But what else could I do? “Weren’t you wearing a necklace?” Jessica asks me, one we are seated at one of the tables outside, drinking our hot chocolate. I reach my hand to my neck, searching for the diamond necklace from my father. “Oh no.” I say panicked, “It must have fallen off.” I say. My friends look panicked as well. “Where do you think you lost it?” Elizabeth asks. And just as she asks this I realize where it must have fallen. “The bathroom,” I say, “I was scratching my neck, and it must have fallen off then.” I say, taking off into the house, hoping my friends will cover for me if I need them to. The last thing I note is Thomas eyeing me from his table as I rush out. I remembered my way to the bathroom quite clearly, the door is closed, but it doesn’t sound as if any one is in there, so I take my chances. It is dark, when I open the door, so I do not open it wide. I see a glint of what must be my necklace just on the side of the floor in the sink. I crawl into the bathroom and kneel my the sink to grab my necklace. It was then that I realized that I was not alone. Two other people were in here, in the dark, unaware of my presence. I stay crushed between the sink and the wall, careful not to make a sound so that I don’t get noticed. They are kissing, that much is clear. Not that I’ve heard many people kiss before, but I’m not as daft as to not realize what’s clearly going on. I stay there for a while, listening to them kiss, maybe more, and speak to each other. They were whispers, mind you, so I could not make out the voices or the words. After some time, just as I am reaching my core of restlessness they finally stop and make their way past me out the door. Of course I want to see who it is, even though the chances are that I may not know them. Meggie, perhaps. We had, after all, caught her doing such things before. But when I step silently out the door behind them, I only have to see the backs of their heads to recognize the two very familiar faces. It wasn’t Meggie, it wasn’t Laura. It was Victoria…and Ben.
Is this why Thomas broke his engagement with Victoria? Why he wouldn’t tell me why they broke up? It all makes sense now. Ben’s disappearing acts, Victoria’s secret laughs. This is why. My breath stops short, and I hear someone step behind me. I turn around and am not surprised to see Thomas standing there with sympathetic eyes. “I’m sorry.” He whispers. I cannot help it. I collapse into his arms and cry until I am dry of tears. What am I going to do? •••
26A Bad News Visitor
Dear diary, What I saw yesterday…I mean, that could be easily forgotten, right? If I just told him that I knew, he’d feel bad; I could forgive him and act as if it never happened. Or I can at least try…My grandmother is coming to visit tomorrow; I haven’t told her what I saw, and quite frankly don’t know if I want to tell her yet. Well time will only tell my choice I suppose; I have the whole day to think about it…Lucky me,
The classroom is dead, just like the whole day had been. Breakfast had been dead, our first two classes had been dead, and even lunch had been dead…except for the constant urge for me to jump her.
I can’t help but replay my conversations with her…it was so obvious, how didn’t I know? Especially when I asked her to tell me why Thomas broke their engagement…what was it she had said to me?— “As much as I would love to do that Mary, I really can’t…” She wanted to hurt me, that’s why she was doing this, she wanted to hurt me and she did. I’ve never been stung like that before, I’ve never had that pain. What really bothers me about all of it though is that he cheated on me with Victoria. What am I saying? Of course it was with Victoria…if it hadn’t been for her, this probably would have never happened. Last night, when I walked up to my room, completely numb, I walked over to my window sill, and grabbed Ben’s bouquet. The flowers had died, that day they died, and it had brought on more tears…I cried until I finally fell asleep. Now of course the classroom isn’t just dead because of me. My pain doesn’t ruin the joy of a classroom, our pain does. I decided last night, to tell Claire the truth, about what Victoria told Jessie Tigers. She’s never been so down. Although I do not regret my decision, for I do not relish lying to my friends. Not to mention Jessica’s mother who has passed away only days ago. Also, at Monsieur Duval’s country house, Miss’s Franklin, said to give Elizabeth her coming out party, canceled. And do you know why? She had heard rumors about Claire (all false of course), and knows that Elizabeth and she are good friends…she refused to throw Elizabeth her coming out party, and refused to let her son associate himself with her. Now Elizabeth may never even have her season…this could ruin her —ruin her life. But we are all ruined now, every single one of us ruined with no way out. The others are all oblivious; of course, leave it to them to be so self observant as to not notice the obvious pain that has invaded our class. “Mary, what do you think?” Miss Donalie asks. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the question?” I say honestly. “The poem…what do you make of it?” She asks. The poem in question is one that I know very well. The Lady of Shallot, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The unfortunate story of Elaine of Astolat falling in love with Lancelot, but she was cursed…and she died. Died for love, or died from the curse…I couldn’t say; probably both. “Same old story,” I say bitterly, “not much to say…hearts are broken everyday.” •
“I don’t see why we had to come out here…I was perfectly comfortable with being unconscious.” Elizabeth pouts sitting on one of the benches in the garden. It is once again the middle of the night, I convinced my friends, including Jessica this time (this is her first sneak out), to come out for a bit of fun…though my plan doesn’t seem to be working so well. “Because…we shall all be parting soon, and well, things haven’t been going so well. I just don’t want to leave on these terms…we really have had some good times.” I say, trying to convince them to see the bright side. “Thanks Mary.” Claire says sincerely, giving me a weak smile. “Yeah…it was a good idea.” Jessica jumps in. Only Elizabeth, stubborn Elizabeth, doesn’t say another word. Everyone, including myself, still doesn’t lighten up…I’m running out of distractions, and I thought one last sneak out would do the trick, for me and my friends… “I know what we should do!” I yell suddenly, jumping up, scaring my piers. “Blast Mary, do you have to be so bloody jumpy?” Elizabeth says in a mean voice…it would have worried me if not for the slow smile creeping up the side of her face. “Let’s go to the pool.” I say, and Claire and Elizabeth look stunned; Jessica only looks confused. “Mary…” Claire starts, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea…Last time—″ “I don’t care about last time.” I cut her off. “There aren’t bound to be any gypsies now, in the middle of bloody winter…they’d have moved on by now. Besides, it’s the only place I felt magic…maybe even enough to help us forget, for a while…to live.” I say, and I can see my speech is working. They all stand up slowly, and I allow Elizabeth to lead the way. I’m surprised she was willing, maybe for this night I’ll have my friends back to normal, and myself too. It takes a shorter time to get there compared to last time, even though it is just as dark, and even more cold out. Obviously it helps when your leader is actually certain of her destination. Jessica is in a daze the whole walk there, it seems. Everything is new to her; the midnight sneak out, the forest… I can tell she is excited, and I don’t blame her. Once we arrive I look to Jessica…she is confused. Just like Claire and I were the first time (and only time) we came. “Take your shoe off and dip your toe in.” Elizabeth says to Jessica, repeating the exact words she used with us.
“Umm…I really don’t think I want to.” Jessica says looking uncertainly at us. Clearly we aren’t getting anywhere, so I decide to lead by example, dressing down and stepping into the pool once more. I close my eyes as I had done the first time. Why did I ever stay away? “Come in, it’s wonderful!” I shout to my friends, and this time no one hesitates to enter the warm, soothing water. The magic water that had once given us hope…and is giving it again. “I propose we do something.” I say, finally bringing up the subject in the safety of the pool. “Hmmm?” Jessica asks, eyes closed, swimming around. “About our problems…” I continue, “I am not about to let my life waste.” I say sternly, hoping to catch someone’s attention. “Like what?” Claire asks. “Well, I’m not sure. At least if we start with your situation first, Claire, we shall solve two at once. Once we fix your reputation, Miss’s Franklin will have to reconsider and help Elizabeth.” “How are we ever going to find a way to fix it?” Elizabeth says hopelessly. “I’m not sure yet.” I say, in a quiet voice. “And what of your predicament Mary?” Jessica asks. “I…I don’t know.” I say. “It’s not hard…you either forget about what you saw and live as you were, or you hope you shall have a good season and find someone to throw your coming out party.” She says, and she has only made me feel worse. “I hadn’t thought of it that way…” I say. “I told you I didn’t like him.” She then says a matter-of-factly. “Yes. I recall.” I sigh, leaning back against the hard rock of the pool. “And what of Thomas?” Claire asks. “Yes, what?” Elizabeth teases. “Nothing…he’s made it quite clear that he…that we…we can no longer stay friends.” I start moving around, trying to get them to leave me alone. “Don’t be so naïve, Mary.” Elizabeth grabs hold of me. “You know what I mean. I don’t care if you two are friends…” Se says. “Well, I am still engaged to Ben, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it…how’s that for starters?” I retort. “I want to have a bit of fun.” Jessica says, and I could kiss her for changing the subject. That’s exactly the reason I dragged them all out here…for fun.
We start to play some games, any game we can that can be played in water. Marco Polo was preferable, and we found ourselves playing for some time now. Claire was it, and was right near me. “Marco!” She calls out, and I try to respond as low as I can. “Polo.” I whisper without success. Claire leaps forward and wraps her arms around me. “I’ve got you. Mary, you’re no good at this game. You’re always getting caught.” She laughs, and the others laugh as well. “Sure sure, have your fun now ladies, but I am about to take my revenge!” I give my best attempt at an evil laugh, which clearly was rather pathetic, for instead of scaring them, I’ve just made them laugh even harder. “He…hello?” I different voice calls, “Is anyone there?” Normally this would have made me scream, run or faint. For it is a male voice; but seeing how the others don’t seem frightened either, I know that my assumption has to be right. Someone steps out of the dark shadows of the trees and closer where we can identify him. “Avert your eyes cousin!” Elizabeth yells before diving under the water. “Oh, oh!” Thomas puts his hands in front of his eyes rather hastily, which causes him to lose his balance and fall to the ground. I laugh at this and he hears me. “ I hear you!” He calls out, “It’s not funny.” He then says, which makes me laugh even more. He stays like that, on the ground, covering his eyes until we are all fully dressed from head to toe, including our winter coats and shoes. “What are you doing here Thomas?” Elizabeth demands while helping him to his feet. “I was at the cabin when I heard voices…I thought it might have been the gypsies again…” Everyone stays quiet for a while…especially Jessica and Claire who hasn’t said anything in the first place. “Mary…” Thomas breaks the silence with the use of my first name; the other girls look at me with questioning eyebrows at this. And so just to get them going… “Yes Thomas?” I say, and Elizabeth smiles at me. “I wanted to apologize…er, we didn’t really get to leave on good terms. Would you take a walk with me?” I was shivering from the cold, and a walk in the forest in the winter while I was already wet on top of it all, didn’t really appeal to me. “I don’t really think that’s a good idea.” I say and earn a hard slap on the arm from Elizabeth. “What is wrong with you?” She yells at me, “Of course you’re going to go, He just apologized to you in front of your friends. Give him a
break.” She says and I look at her stunned, but she doesn’t waste a moment before continuing, “Of course she shall join you. Make sure you walk her safely back to Smith’s, and we shall be waiting for her in her room.” She says, and then takes the other girls to walk off. I turn to face Thomas, hunch my shoulders and follow him. “You’re cold.” He notes, while watching me shiver. “Y-yes…that’s why I didn’t want to come.” I say, teeth chattering, hugging myself with my arms for warmth. “We have clothes at the cabin…my little sister’s; they should fit you well enough. I have a fire going in there anyway. You can warm up before I take you back.” He says, and I immediately cheer up. Clean, warm clothes and a fire…it sounds like heaven right now. He wasn’t lying when he said his cabin wasn’t far…no wonder he heard us all so clearly, especially if you take into consideration how loud we all are. His cabin looked big enough from my standing point of view, and I could see that he left the light on inside. The light shinning through the windows made it look very cozy and inviting. As you can imagine, I didn’t hesitate as he lead me inside to the warmth of the cabin. “Wait here.” Thomas orders after closing the door behind us. “Okay.” I say, walking towards the fireplace. It may be cozy in here, but I am still cold. “Here,” Thomas says, walking back into the room with a dress and a blanket. “Like I said,” He continues, “it may not be a perfect fit, but it will have to do…and here’s an extra blanket so you can warm up faster.” He finishes, handing them to me. “Thanks.” I take them into my hands. “Uh…” I’m looking at him with raised eyebrows, and he seems to understand right away. “Oh, right.” He says, “I’ll wait in the other room, just call out when you’re, er, decent.” And with that, he walks awkwardly out of the room, closing the door behind him. I take off my wet shoes and coast first. I can’t imagine how long it shall take for this thick coat to dry…more than a day no doubt. I dress down completely after that, wearing only my undergarments; they may still be wet, but I don’t feel it as much. And then I squeeze on the dress that Thomas gave me. One thing was for sure…it definitely was not a perfect fit, or even close to it. I’ve never met his younger sister, but I imagine that she cannot be very old to be so short and small. My neck, chest and ankles are all indecently exposed, so I grab the blanket and wrap it tightly around myself for modesty’s sake. “Alright!” I call out, “I’m decent!”
Sort of, I add to myself in my head. “Still that cold, huh?” He says, taking in the sight of me all wrapped up. “Oh, uh, yeah…” I lie. “He picks up another blanket off the couch along with two pillows. He then places them on the floor in front of the fireplace. He notices me watching him and sits down on one of the pillows and pats the other with his hand. “If you’re cold,” He says with laughing eyes, “You’ll do well to sit by the fire.” I take a seat on the other pillow beside him. The heat from the fire rubbing off on me soothingly. I try not to think about what a risk it is to my reputation being here alone with Thomas…just walking alone with Thomas is a risk. But I don’t want any distractions; all I want is the experience of the blissfulness of an empty mind. “I’m sorry.” I hear Thomas whisper suddenly. When I look at him, I see that he is staring into the fire, as if his mind was somewhere far away. “You’ve never done anything to have to apologize for.” I say, meaning it. “Oh, but I do.” He turns his head to look at me, “for so many things.” He moves a little closer. I feel like my heart just fell into my stomach. “For example,” he says, and he’s so close that I can feel the warmth of his breath on my skin. “All the time I’ve wasted…” he trails off. “What do you mean?” I ask, a little confused. He’s looking at me more intensely now, his eyes searching; “If I hadn’t wasted my time arguing with you…If I had just done what I wanted…maybe you and I, we might be in different positions right now.” “You mean how now you don’t have a fiancé and I have one who’s cheating on me with my worst enemy.” I say dryly. He looks surprised at my being so pessimistic. “Yeah…” He finally answers. I realize that it was a mistake for me to react that way. Thomas was opening up to me and I just brought us both down. We stay silent for a while—staring into space, listening to the crackle of the fire. It is times like these that make it hard to believe in all the things in life. My problems seem so far away at this moment…thanks to Thomas it doesn’t stay that way for long. “So what are you going to do?” he asks, still not looking at me. It doesn’t take a genius to know what he’s referring to. “I don’t know.” I whisper, and it’s the truth. “He doesn’t even know that I know.” I say.
Besides telling my friends what I saw, I’ve never even attempted to talk about it. Mostly because I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the situation. It really comes down to two choices: 1-stay with him and suck it up. 2-leave him and live with the disappointment from your family and risk being alone…not to mention not having anyone to throw your coming out party. “I see.” Thomas finally responds, forcing me to take my head out of the clouds. “I will tell him though.” I say, feeling guilty for being the reason Thomas holds that hopelessness on his face. I’ve hurt him too much already; never again will I be the reason for this look to cross his face… “I guess we will see what happens from there.” I finish. He drops his head and looks away. “Do you love him?” he whispers, and I am completely shocked by his question; though the answer is an obvious one. “No.” I answer, never taking my eyes off him. He smiles at me before standing up. “What are you doing?” I ask, watching him pull out a record and put it into the record player. I immediately recognize the song— Evergreens, by Stephen Foster. It is one of my favorites. Thomas walks over, not answering my question, he stretches his hand out to me. “Come.” He says, and I take his hand to stand with him; still having the blanket wrapped around me. “Now how are you going to dance with that on?” He asks, his hands moving to my shoulders…I pull away. “I haven’t kept this blanket on for nothing.” I say, and he looks at me confused. I give a sigh. “The dress you gave me…it doesn’t quite fit.” I explain while slowly taking off the blanket. The truth is, I do want to dance with him. So much that I will dance without the blanket. He takes in the sight of me. He doesn’t say anything; he just pulls me to him, positioning me for a dance. But instead of the traditional stance, he takes my arms and wraps them around his neck before grabbing my waist and pulling me close. Now this was definitely not aloud. “This is the first time I’ve ever danced with you.” I say, thinking out loud. Instead of a normal response, though, Thomas shocks me by giving a little laugh with a bit of a mysterious edge to it. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten our first dance already.” He says, his eyes sparkling…such beautiful eyes, almost identical to… No…it couldn’t be, could it? Thomas sees the sudden look of realization on my face.
“Ah,” He says, “So you do remember.” He’s smiling bigger than ever by this time. I almost don’t believe it…the mysterious man from the ball—the one who took my breath away, it was Thomas. I should have known; it was always Thomas, and it will always be Thomas. Elizabeth was right—Ben is not too good for me; he had his chance and he blew it. “I can’t believe that was you at the ball.” I say, and he pulls me in as close as possible. “It was that night that I realized…that I decided that I wasn’t giving up on you. The way you reacted towards me that night…” He stops as if lost in thought. “But you proposed to Victoria.” I say. By this time we had stopped dancing. Thomas lets out a sigh and leads me back to sit by the fireplace, music still playing in the background. “What is it?” I ask in concern…He looks confused, and it worries me. “It’s nothing, just a bit of a long story.” He says. “Go on, we still have time.” I say, and he gives another sigh. “I’ll try to keep it as short as possible…” he says and then turns to look at me as he speaks. “My father’s business…it sort of, well, went down hill you could say. And my mother was not rich enough to cover the damage. We needed a cover up, or so my father kept telling me, so it was in my family’s best interest if I married a rich woman as soon as possible. And Victoria seemed to be the perfect solution. My mother couldn’t stand her, of course, but she wasn’t at liberty to object to my fathers wishes. Normally, we would have just asked another member of the family to help out a bit before things get back on track…but my father is far too proud to ask for help. Foolish man. Frank couldn’t marry for he’s leaving for the service in a couple of weeks.” He brushes his hand through his hair and takes a deep breath before continuing, “I had to court her first…to make it look real. For moths I’ve been courting her, and honestly, I did enjoy her company at first. But she changed as I got to know her. And when I saw you at rehearsals…well, let’s just say Victoria and my relationship was pretty much doomed to failure that first night. But my father kept pressuring me to ask Victoria to marry me, ‘now is the perfect time’ he kept telling me. So I did, and regretted it right away.” He takes my hand in his now, “It was during the concert, after I asked her to marry me, that I caught her and…Ben. I hadn’t said anything, my family still needed me. But I caught her again at the Kingston’s tea. Anyway, my father told me at the tea that we were financially correct again, but he was happy for Victoria and I. Of course at the news of our being okay I planned on breaking the engagement at once. Until Ben came over and told me that he was going to propose…
and I seen the way you looked at him when he talked to you…I just couldn’t be the one responsible to ruin it all for you.” I take this all in…to think I had no clue whatsoever to what he has been going through this whole time. Thomas, to me, was seen as an annoying distraction, and now that I know… “Why did you finally break the engagement?” I ask. “Victoria sent me a letter, requesting the wedding date…A month! Can you believe that? She wanted to get married in a month! Of course I realized then that there was no way I would put myself through that. So I sent her a letter, canceling the engagement, and told her what I knew.” He finishes. It all makes sense now. Everything he’s telling me makes perfect sense. Now it is only my little problem that I have to be rid of, and maybe Thomas and I could… “I think…” Thomas says, barely a whisper, breaking the silence, “ Miss Thorn, I think I’ve fallen in love with you.” He says, moving closer to me. Now I definitely have Goosebumps. “I think, Mister Benet…that I have fallen in love with you.” I say avoiding his eyes from my own embarrassment. I’m in love with Thomas Benet. I never thought I would admit it, but I am, and it’s true. He’s the one I want…the one I love… He’s smiling at me now…the same intoxicating smile he was wearing the night of the ball. Neither of us say anything as he continues to move closer to me. He takes his hands to my face, fingers stringing through my hair, and pulls my face to his until our lips meet. I am a girl, so dreaming about my first kiss, obviously was something I did. But no matter how I imagined it…this was far, far better. I was surprised by the intensity of the kiss…holding me tightly to him, as if he wanted me to stay there always. And I would…for as long as he wanted me to. When the kiss ends, I find myself a little dizzy. Never the less, I am smiling like a bloody fool, and I try to turn away. Thomas stops me with his hands, pulling me in again for another kiss. When it is over, we stand and he whispers: “Time to go.” Not exactly the romantic line I had in mind, but he was right. I’ve been away from school and my friends long enough, and I don’t want them worrying over me…they are waiting after all. The walk back was spectacular. Holding his hand, or hugging him when I felt like it…it felt…right.
That was the only word for it: Right. Anything other than him and I together would be wrong, and so my decision to my dilemma was obviously made up a long time ago. Assembly day is coming, and Ben should be here, I would tell him then. I would tell him that I know about him and Victoria, and that I cannot marry such a dishonest man. And maybe even he and Victoria would get together…it would make sense. But I don’t care what happens to them. As long as I’m with Thomas, everything would be fine. So as you would imagine, I told my friends everything when I got home, followed by a plan to fix all our problems…and to be done with Victoria once and for all… • The next day, I absolutely dread my grandmothers expected visit. I make sure to look presentable, so that she cannot insult me on my appearance at least. I know that she shall not take my decision to refuse Ben’s proposal well, weather he is a respectable man or no (which in this case: he isn’t). All I can do is try my best to explain my situation, while leaving Thomas out of it of course. I do not want anyone (besides my friends of course) knowing about my feelings for Thomas, or his for me. It could cause rumors, and I would like to wait until things settled down first. “She’ll understand, I’m positive.” Elizabeth says while fixing my hair. “Trust me Eli, she won’t” I say thinking over the different scenarios in my head. “I mean, you are her granddaughter after all,” She continues, pulling a little harder on my hair, forcing me to wince. “She wouldn’t want you to be so unhappy with a man who cheats surely.” “That’s what you think.” I grumble just when there is a knock at the door. “What is it?” Elizabeth calls, not bothering to open it. “It’s Miss’s Thorn, she’s ‘ere to see Miss Thorn, er Mary, that is.” Anne calls back. I give a loud sigh before standing up and opening the door. “I’m to lead ye into the sun room miss.” Anne says. “Yes, lead the way Anne.” I say following her out. My thoughts tangle in a rush as I make my way to the sun room. Will my grandmother have a problem with my refusal? Will I be able to stand up to her if she does? Well I am going to have to in order to get what I want.
I take a deep breath as we stand in front of the closed door. I am probably over reacting. Maybe Elizabeth will prove to be right after all. Maybe my grandmother will understand, maybe she will want what’s best for me…and what’s best for me is what I want. “I’ll wait out ‘ere for ye lassie.” Anne says opening the door for me and then shutting it once I’m inside. “Good afternoon Mary.” My grandmother says sitting at one of the tables slowly sipping her tea. “Good afternoon.” I greet her back, seating myself across from her. “Assembly day is near, you should have told me, else I wouldn’t be wasting time when I’ll be returning in a week.” She says grumpily. “I was waiting until you wrote back.” I snap, wondering why she even bothers to visit when it’s obviously such a burden. She has to maintain her image, that’s why. “I do not wish to quarrel with you Mary,” She says placing her cup on the table, “Not on a beautiful say like this.” I look outside and see that she is right. It is rather beautiful outside…there isn’t much snow left already (not that there is ever that much), and the sun is shinning beautifully. “Yes, it is a rather nice day isn’t it?” I agree, making sure to take slow and deep breaths to keep up my courage. How am I ever going to get enough to tell her? “Grandmother?” I barely choke out the name. “Yes Mary?” She asks. “I need to talk to you about something…” I say finding it harder and harder to breath with each word. “What is it dear?” She says with what seems like sincere concern, though I can never be sure with her. “Well, it’s about Ben.” I say and she lets out a deep breath of her own. A relieved look crosses her face. “Oh Ben, of course, what would you like to dicuss? Your mother was saying that you had a few questions…” “Well, it’s just that, I caught him at the tea,” I say, and she looks confused as to where this conversation is going, I clear my throat so that I may continue. “What I mean is, I caught him with another girl…Miss Brooks actually, they were, uh, kissing and stuff.” I say, and for some odd reason she breaks into laughter. I look at her, trying to figure out what she finds to amusing…I find nothing. “Oh Mary,” She says once she’s stopped laughing, “ have you gone a bit simple dear? It’s normal to get cold feet before you get married…you don’t need to be making up stories. You’ll see once you get married and start your life, you will love it.” She finishes. Cold feet? What is she talking about?
She can’t honestly think I’m making up a story to get out of marrying him because I am nervous? Convincing her will be trickier than I thought. “I’m not nervous, and I’m not making this up.” I say, hoping she’ll believe me this time. No such luck. “Mary, stop this right now!” She says more sternly than I’ve ever heard her speak before. But I do not listen…in fact, I do the opposite. “Why do you think Mister Benet broke his engagement with Miss Brooks? Because he found out as well.” I say, and I can see her coming around. “So it is true then,” She says somberly, “We shall have to do something about that.” She says, and I wear a triumphant smile on my face. It looks like luck may be on my side for once. “Blackmail.” She then surprises me by saying. “What?” I ask, hoping that I heard wrong. “Blackmail, tell him you know everything, and tell him that you will tell everyone and ruin his reputation unless he stops. Soon enough it shall be water under the bridge and you two can continue as if there was nothing amiss.” “You can’t be serious.” I look at her in shock. Does old age bring on delusions? Because she’s certainly delusional if she thinks that is what I’m going to do. “Oh, I am quite serious Mary, this is no joking matter.” She says, and this time I start laughing. “You want me to stay with him?” I yell standing up dramatically. I can tell that I’ve displeased my grandmother greatly, but I will not stop. “Mary, you know it would be quite impossible to find someone to throw your coming out party now that takes moths of planning. And Ben comes from a highly respectable and rich family; you will never get another chance like this!” She’s also raising her voice. I can’t help it, once again, the tears start to come. “Why can’t you believe in me? Maybe I don’t need a coming out party, and maybe I will meet someone better and richer (I make sure to add this just to anger her more) than Ben!” “Sit down Mary,” She then says calmly, “I know you are upset, but you are certainly not going to throw away your future because of one little mistake Mister Kingston made. You are too young to understand this now; when you’re older you shall thank me.” She says standing up with her things, “That is the end of your discussion; I shall see you on Assembly day with the rest of the family.” I do not answer…I watch her leave with tear filled eyes and a heavy heart. My grandmother cannot stop me from breaking the engagement, that much is for sure. Weather I am in trouble or not, it will soon be worth it…I hope.
Now the only thing left to do is take care of Victoria… •••
Dear diary, The letter is sent. The letter to save Claire’s reputation and Elizabeth’s future. We worked on it all night last night, and now the only thing we can do is wait and see what will happen.
Other than that, I spend my time praying that my life will turn out fine…I’m not sure what to do with my newfound problem, I guess I’ll have to wing it.
It is lunch time and we are all sitting in Elizabeth and Jessica’s room, conversing about the plan. Personally, I find it to be fool proof, but one can never be sure. “Well, it was a rather clever idea weather it works or not Mary.” Claire says. “Thanks,” I answer, “I don’t see how it couldn’t work, I mean, stealing a letter from Miss’s Trenchfield’s office to forge her writing, and using it for our letter…it was perfect!” I say, getting excited again. “If Victoria’s brother is as daft as her, then we shan’t have a problem.” We all laugh with her, “Besides,” She continues, “It was written so well that Miss’s Trenchfield herself would probably think she even wrote it.” I think about it for a second…We spent hours on that one letter making sure it was perfect. Using big words and staying polite, even though it was meant to scare him off. We pretended to be Miss’s Trenchfield, you see, we wrote Joshua Brooks a letter explaining that we are aware of he and Miss Brooks (Victoria)’s scandal against Miss Claire Milton and that if he doesn’t want to be found out, that he should go straight away to The Tigers’ residence to apologize and explain what he and Victoria had done before they are found out. It was a priceless letter, and now we are only awaiting a sing of some sort to prove that it worked. As for Victoria, well, we also told her brother to write Victoria telling her that she had better confess before I (as Miss’s Trenchfield) talk to her myself and she is expelled. So if all goes well, Joshua Brooks will tell Miss’s Tigers and his family of he and Victoria’s trick. They will ten apologize to Claire, telling everyone of the Brook’s scandal, clearing Claire’s name, which will then get to the Franklin family, clearing Elizabeth’s fried reputation allowing her to have to coming out party she’s always dreamed of. Not to mention Victoria walking of her own free will to Miss’s Trenchfield’s office, admitting to everything, thinking she’s to get expelled if she doesn’t. It was the perfect plan. But even the best idea’s can go wrong right? “Well,” Jessica breaks the silence, “Since the only thing left to do about that is wait…what are we going to do about your problem Mary?” She asks, and I hang my head. “I don’t know…” I say, and Elizabeth starts to shake me. 177
“You’re the one who came up with a plan for Claire and me, while ensuring revenge on Victoria all at once! And you’re telling us that you don’t know what to do about Thomas and Ben?” She asks, forcing me to stare at her. “Yes…that’s exactly what I am saying.” I moan pathetically. “I say to hell with rules and do what you want. If you break the engagement what can they do?” Elizabeth then says. “It’s not that simple.” I say, my head spinning in confusion. “If I break the engagement I shall disgrace my family and it’s very likely that rumors shall start.” “But,” Jessica says with a sneaky smile on her face, “What if we got Ben to break the engagement.” Elizabeth jumps into Jessica’s arms, “Jess, you are brilliant!” She exclaims. “And how are we going to do that? Without ruining my reputation by making him think that I am not a suitable wife.” I say, still in my hopeless state. “It will be tricky.” Claire says, her voice sounding far away. “Well, then we need to scare him away from you Mary.” Elizabeth says, shinning no light whatsoever on her plan. “What do you mean?” Claire asks before I do. “Mary, maybe your grandmother was right about the blackmailing after all.” Elizabeth answers and I stare at her open mouthed. “What?” I exclaim, “You want me to listen to my grandmother? What about Thomas—” “Shhh, Mary. I don’t mean listen to her. I mean take her advice. You are going to blackmail Ben into breaking the engagement with you. It may raise a few eye brows, but when nothing is said about it, the buzz will go away.” “Ohhh,” I say, understanding her plan and loving her for it, “So you want me to tell him that I know about Victoria and him, and then tell him that if he doesn’t want it to get out that he has to break the engagement.” “But you’ll have to make up a reason for him to break it.” Jessica says. And she’s right. I hadn’t thought of that. “I’ll think of something.” I say, and the bell or the next class rings. •••
Dear diary, Assembly say is here. Time to put my plan into action, not to mention wait and hear for news of our other plan. We still hadn’t heard of
anything yet, we’ve been watching Victoria for any nervous activity, but so far there is nothing. Never the less, if Joshua hadn’t yet written Victoria to confess, then he certainly will today…I shall make sure of that. Well, time to face my family, so long.
Assembly day is always critical. The ballroom must be cleaned and set up nicely. The maids are running around with tea and biscuits, and the children are gathering their best work to show them; and all the while trying to maintain a calm and suitable environment. Jessica is still wearing her mourning clothes, which she is aloud to wear for six months still. Only her father will be here to see her…her mother is dead and today it shows on her face. “If you have time Jess, you could come visit with my family. I could probably use some support.” I say, hopping the offer will put a smile on her face…at least it worked somewhat. “As much as I would like to support team Mary today, I think it would be best for me to just lay low.” She gives a weak smile before walking into the ballroom. I wait a little while before entering, I go over my work that I had brought to show them, and then I go over the plan to break the engagement. I’ve never been so nervous in my life…if something should go wrong, then I’d really be in for trouble. I would be much more confidant if we knew that our first plan had worked, but still no sings of failure or success showing on that range. “Aren’t you going to go in?” A familiar voice says behind me. One that I haven’t heard in a while…the one I was afraid to hear. I turn to face him. “Y-yes…” I say, and Ben links his arm in mine and we enter together. As much as this action would have given me butterflies before, it scares me now. For I know what I must do… He leaves me with my family and goes off to talk to Miss’s Trenchfield. I only hope they are not talking of the engagement, it will be that much more of a fuss when I refuse if they are. “Mary, what are you staring at?” My mother asks me. “Oh, nothing.” I say, turning around to face my family. Everyone is here, except for Gavan and Marissa of course. I’m sure they are too busy preparing for their new expected baby.
“I expect you have work to show us.” My father says, eyeing the portfolio in my hand. “As a matter of fact, I do.” I answer while opening my portfolio. I start with my paintings, for I know Emily much likes to paint. I let her keep a couple for inspiration, like she had asked. Emily will be something great one day. Next I show them my embroidery, I’ve given my mother and grandmother each a handkerchief with their initials on them. My mother, being the sensitive being that she is, cried when I gave her this. My grandmother on the other hand, critiqued me on my work. Not that I wasn’t expecting it. For French and music I show them my over-all marks instead of all my work…it seemed a lot easier that way. And after all was shown, we all sat down to enjoy each others company and conversation. “Would ye like some tea?” Anne asks just as I am putting my things away. “Yes please. Five, if you don’t mind.” My grandmother answers for all of us. “Righ` away ma`am. ” Anne replies before scurrying off to fetch our tea. I watch her as she runs off…trying to imagine her as a girl. It’s very hard, I’ll tell you that. Almost as hard as imagining my grandmother as a girl. And then I wonder if she had any adventures, she could possibly have led a far more exciting life than she leads on. She’s not from London, that much I know…her accent is Scottish I believe, and I wonder what made her come here. I suppose I’ll never really know. “So, Mary, how are things here?” My mother asks, making polite conversation. “Never changing, still as lovely as ever.” I lie, trying to keep her happy. “That’s what we like to hear. Good for you princess.” My father says so loudly, causing people to stare…much to my embarrassment. “I expect the engagement has rung quite and excitement here for you.” My mother then asks, and I immediately trade glances with my grandmother. Obviously she hasn’t told my parents a thing. That will make it all the harder when I tell them that the engagement is off. “Somewhat.” Is the best answer I can give them. “How exciting!” Emily exclaims. If only you knew Em, if only you knew. “`Ere`s yer tea.” Anne returns, placing a tray of cups of tea on our table. “Thank you Anne.” I say, sipping mine thankfully. Tea has always had a way of soothing me. “Anything else?” She asks.
“No.” My grandmother says quite rudely, “that will be all.” I roll my eyes at my grandmother’s lack of manners. For someone who thinks image is so important, she sure can put out a bad one at times. “We heard about Mister Benet and Miss Brooks. How shocking!” My mother states casual as ever. “Miss Brooks must have been heart broken.” She then adds. “Hardly.” I mumble, but unfortunately it did not go unheard. “Why do you say that?” Emily asks, obviously interested in the gossip. I notice my grandmother sending me a warning look. Too late. “Miss Brooks was apparently having an affair.” I say, and my mother gasps. “With an engaged man.” I continue, taunting my grandmother, “Mister Benet had caught them more than once. And he could not associate with such a scandalous girl. So he broke the engagement.” “That’s enough Mary; we don’t want to start spreading rumors now.” My grandmother says, obviously wanting to cover it all up. “But it’s not a rumor. Mister Benet told me himself…not to mention I caught them myself while visiting Monsieur Duval`s country estate.” “Oh my! Who was the man? ” My mother asks, and I am debating weather I should tell them the truth or not. This is not what I originally planned to do of course, but maybe my parents would understand better… “Mary, we shall have no more of your stories.” My grandmother says sternly. I turn my head away from her, and as I’m doing this, I see Ben and Victoria sneaking off through the doors. “I wouldn’t call that a story.” I say, still staring at Ben and Victoria, trying to be as stealth as ever, wanting to get away, to be alone. The others look on the same direction. “No…” My mother says, shocked, “But he’s your―” “Fiancé.” I finish with an evil smirk on my face. My parents would never allow me to marry such a filthy mannered man. “Oh Mary!” My mother comes over to embrace me. “You are not to marry him Mary, do you understand! I want you no where near him!” My father says, clearly angry. “Don’t worry father,” I say, while glancing at my grandmother’s panic stricken face, “I wasn’t planning to.” •
My grandmother did try to argue with them of course. But even though she is the mother of my father, she could not tell him what to do. And so it was decided that I shall not marry Ben. My father had offered to speak to his family, and tell them everything, but I asked him not to. I told him that I would take care of it myself, and he seemed proud of my taking the matter into my own hands. After all, it is my problem. And so, after we said our goodbyes and my family left, I prayed that Victoria and Ben were still together at the moment…for I’ve a new plan now. “We’ll see you soon Mary.” My mother says before walking out of the door. Not a moment after my family had left the building for good, I went in search to find Ben and Victoria caught in the act. Now…if I were two sneaky juveniles hiding to perform a sinful act, where would I hide? That’s not an easy question to answer that. Smith’s is enormous, and while I do know my way around—it still has its nooks and crannies. My first year here, when I first met Claire and Elizabeth; you could say that we were a little rebellious…well, rebellious compared to the other girls here. Anyway, you know how now days we sneak outside? Well, starting out we kept our adventures indoors. It was a little over a year that had passed before we had enough guts to go outside. But getting back to the point, we would all meet in the middle of the night to search the school. For what, I couldn’t tell you. Fourteen year olds can have quite the imagination, especially when forced into a boarding school you are forced to use it. We’ve been places that I doubt have the administration even knows about. There was this one time, we were in the kitchen sneaking some snacks, when Elizabeth was hiding in one of the cupboards to try and scare us. Well, while she didn’t manage to do that, she found a secret door that led into an inhabited basement. We were all holding hands walking down the dark stone steps. The candle we had brought for light didn’t do its job very well. When we finally reached the bottom, we found other candles that we were able to light, so that the small room we were standing in was completely visible. It wasn’t anything special; it looked like an old hermit cave really. A small desk, a small bed, some paper and feather pens, and some matches and candles. Judging by all the dust and spider webs we had found, no one has been in there for years. But we always went back, almost every week (until we discovered sneaking outside) and we cleaned up the place, so it was suitable and sanitary enough for us to meet in. One night though, Victoria and Meggie had followed us down. You see, at
the time, Meggie was Elizabeth’s room mate, and had noticed her sneaking out of the room in the middle of the night. So she got Victoria and followed us to see what we were up to. They weren’t very stealth though, and once in the room we caught them peeping on the old stares. It turned into an argument of course. And resulted in all our silence, not to mention that it was our last trip there. I am brilliant! That must be where Victoria had taken Ben. It’s the only place that they are certain not to get caught. I run to Elizabeth who is in her room. Claire and Jessica are still visiting with their families, so Elizabeth is my only ally for this mission. And I needed an ally for my new plan. I burst into her room, quickly telling her about how it went with my family, and explaining that I saw Victoria and Ben leave the ballroom one after the other. When I told her where I thought she was, she was confused at first. It’s been so long since we went into that little room that it took a couple of minutes of explanation for her to remember. I finally stopped when her eyes went wide and she said: “Let’s go!” I explained my plan to her as we were walking towards the kitchen. The only hard part about this whole thing will be sneaking past the maids and the cooks. But if I am right, and that is where Victoria and Ben are, then if they could manage, so could we. Besides, we were far cleverer. Once outside of the kitchen, we stood by the door, watching maids come out with trays, until we figured there couldn’t be much more people there. We gather our courage and silently enter the kitchen. The only one left in there is the cook, who is tending to the pot on her stove and humming to herself. She is completely oblivious to our presence, which makes our job a lot easier. We take advantage of the empty room and the distracted cook and as stealthy as we could manage, squeeze ourselves into the cup board. We open the old camouflaged door behind it, and slowly make our way down the stairs. The light at the bottom is visible, and voices can be made out. That’s all I need to know that I was right. When we almost reach the bottom I motion for Elizabeth to stay in hiding on the stairs, I would call her when I needed her. I make my way down the four other steps and stand in front of Ben and Victoria who look at me wide eyed. “It’s not what you think…” Ben starts, making his way over to me. I give my biggest smile while answering, “Stop Mister Kingston, I am not as half-witted as you think. I knew this was going on for a while, and so did Thomas.” And the mention of
Thomas’s name Victoria’s face grows red. I’m not surprised to find her speechless at the moment…what could she possibly say? “I could and possibly will tell everyone—″ Victoria seems to have recomposed herself as she cuts me off, “Who would possibly believe you?” She asks, and I only smile bigger. “No one possibly would believe me.” I say walking closer to her, “But everyone would believe Thomas, Elizabeth” I say her name loud enough for Elizabeth to hear and come out from the stairs. “And myself.” Victoria’s face turns even redder, and her eyes fill with tears. “Don’t be so dramatic.” I say and she turns her face away, “If you hadn’t cut me off and listened to what I was going to say maybe you wouldn’t be crying right now.” The two don’t say anything; they don’t even look at me. “First of all, Ben, you only have one way out of this…you break the engagement, you will tell everyone that you have an infliction of some sort, and that you would feel guilty to wed me and not have me know.” He finally looks at me, “Okay…” He says with a bit of reculance. For he knows if he spreads this rumor about himself, it shall be harder for him to find a wife…which was the whole point of this of course. “And you…” I say to Victoria, “Don’t think I haven’t thought of you. Fist of all, you should thank me for what I am about to tell you, so that you won’t be expelled. I expect you spoke to your brother Joshua today?” I ask, and she nods her head. “Yes.” She snaps, giving me an evil glare. I laugh at this and continue— “And I suppose he’s told you of the letter Mrs. Trenchfield sent him and of what you’re to do?” She looks at me in astonishment, wondering how I know of all this. “Oh yes, I know everything Miss Brooks, after Miss’s Trenchfield spoke to Claire, Claire came to me and told me everything.” I lie. “So what do you want?” She retorts. “Now is not the time to be rude to me. Your future is in my hands after all.” Elizabeth takes a few steps to stand beside me, I feel a lot stronger now, as opposed to my feeling faint this whole time. “You,” I continue, “shall listen to what your brother told you. You shall go straight away to Mrs. Trenchfield and tell her what you did to Claire to save yourself your reputation and expulsion. You will redeem Claire’s name and send a letter of apology to Mr. Tigers and his family.” “Yes.” She says again. “Now,” I look at both of them, “If any of these things are not completed as I said them, I will tell the world of your scandal.” “We won’t say a word…” Ben says is a small voice. •
After all that, I felt much better. It worked…my plan had worked, and both Elizabeth and Claire are saved. Things are actually going as planned. The only thing left to do is write Thomas and tell him everything. But before I do, I return to the ballroom to tell Jessica and Claire everything. They were thrilled. I’ve never seen Claire so happy in my life. But before further celebration, Mrs. Trenchfield makes an announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to invite Sir Laird and Miss Logan up here to share some great news.” She says, and Sir Laird and Miss Logan make their way through the crowd to stand beside Mrs. Trenchfield. “We’re getting married!” He explains before embracing Miss Logan into his arms, and the crowd erupts in cheers. Yes, things are working out after all… •••
28Follow your heart
The heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The deed is done, and everyone shall have their happily ever after. I cannot wait to tell Thomas the news; he’ll be as excited as I am, no doubt… Well, I better write to him then, I’ve not a moment to lose! I’ll post back with a report. Bye.
I am upstairs, relaxing after the long and hectic week. I still cannot believe my luck. This is the first time ever that things are beginning to start right. Two days after our assembly day, Jessie Tigers had written Claire a letter of apology. They are to meet on Valentines Day, still a long way away from now, to have tea. Also, on the same day, Miss’s Franklin came to call on Elizabeth. Elizabeth came to us after she left, apologizing and of course, re-offering to throw her coming out party. James Franklin has come along as well, which made Elizabeth very excited. And yes, as shocking as it is, I’ve not yet had the time to write to my parents or Thomas. Though I’ve been dying to these last couple of days. Luckily, all this time I’ve had plenty of ideas for both letters, and now I am ready to write them. I am sitting at my desk in my room, no light but a small candle (for Claire is already asleep), and I decide to write to my parents first. Mostly because it shan’t take any inspiration, not to mention it will be short and sweet. I basically wrote them about what happened with Ben. I still did not mention Thomas. I want to wait until after I speak with Thomas myself. Other than that, I wished them all a good time and good health, and that I hoped to see them soon. Now, Thomas’s letter, that will take much more thought to put into it. It has to be perfect. I want him to be as thrilled as I am when he reads it… After about ten drafts, I think I’ve finally managed to get it right― Or so I hope.
Dear Mister Benet,
I have the honor of writing you this letter to share some news that is rather important, concerning you if you wish it to. I’ve broken my engagement with Mister Kingston. It is a rather long story, and I would love to have to opportunity to share it with you some time. Other than that news, I am pleased to inform you that soon I shall be a fully graduated young lady from Smith’s, and I am inviting you and your family to the graduation ceremony. Though it shan’t be held for some time now. Well, here’s to wishing you well, and I pray you will write back as soon as you can. With love, Miss Mary Thorn
Yes, I know. It isn’t romantic, or anything of the sort, but it shall have to do. If anyone else should read it, I would be greatly embarrassed, so I decide to keep it polite and casual. And so after placing the note into the envelope, I place it on my night stand, and drift off into a heavenly slumber. • The next day, with no classes for it is the weekend; I have all my time to reflect and relax with my friends. Every one of us, feeling at ease now that Victoria and her friends don’t even dare to look at us anymore. Especially since Victoria did go and tell Mrs. Trenchfield what she had done to Claire. After threatening to expel her for her behavior, she put more thought into it and decided that she is on probation until her season (meaning no party’s or special occasions), and she was to write a letter to Claire and each member of her family apologizing for her wicked behavior. All I hope now is that Victoria’s learnt lesson had rubbed off on her two followers…so far it seems that way. Thank goodness. I had given my letters to Anne so that she may mail them. I can hardly wait for my response from Thomas, more so than from my family.
Especially since I know that I shall have an ear-full from my grandmother. But instead of thinking about her, I focus all my energy into a new painting. I am painting it by memory. The painting of the angel and the woman that I had once seen long ago…only in my painting, the angel is beckoning the woman to him, offering his heart…instead of them being separated and broken. It’s time for a new beginning…one with a happy ending. •••
Week 1Dear diary, It has been a week and still no word from Thomas…
Week 2Dear diary, I know I am not over reacting, something is wrong—it’s been two weeks and Thomas hasn’t yet written back.
Week 3Dear diary, Three weeks now…he’s not going to write me now, I am almost positive. My faith has left me, and I can only wonder why he changed his mind and did not tell me.
Dear diary, I don’t recall anything that has happened these past couple of weeks. It’s like my memory has faded into nothing…a black hole in my head to match the one in my chest. My grandmother has been writing many letters concerning suitors, but I only throw them all out. I don’t need her pressure right now… I don’t need anyone.
“Alors, qui peux me dire le climat aujourd’hui?” Madame Bouchard asks the class. I only hear the question minutes after she’s asked it. It’s been a lot like that lately. Not paying attention to anything...It’s like I’m not even there. “Mademoiselle Thorn! Je veux que tu me répond celui-ci.” She says to me, referring to her question. She’s asking about the weather. I look to the window. It’s cloudy and windy, which puts me into an even deeper depression. “Il est nuageux avec beaucoup de vent.” I say indifferently, as if my voice knew any other tone. “Très bien.” She gives me a second look. “I would like to meet with you after class.” She then whispers. When class is over and everyone leaves I walk over to Madame Bouchard’s desk. I can’t imagine why she wants to speak with me. As far
as my behavior in class goes, I don’t say a word…and my marks are still higher than the other girls… “Sit please.” She points to the chair in front of me. I pull it out and sit across from her. “If this is about my grades…” I start, but stop abruptly as she begins to shake her head. “Of course not Mary, vous êtes une élève excellente. No, I wish to speak about a subject not concerning school, if you don’t mind.” “What is it?” I ask, pretending to be oblivious. In fact, I was the opposite. These last couple of weeks, I’ve been having many ‘talks’ with many different people: friends, teachers, Miss Morgan, Mrs. Trenchfield. All asking about my well-being. It is clear that I am broken….that I really fell, and everyone can see it. “Do you need to talk to someone about something?” She asks me, sounding sincerely concerned. In any normal state, I would have been touched by this. But given the present circumstances, I am only annoyed. “I’ve spoken to many people, all who’ve proven to be useless. I don’t need help!” I snap. “Forgive me for offending you Miss Thorn…but I have to ask…. have you been drinking spirits, frequently?” When I hear this I start to laugh hysterically, which probably doesn’t help my situation, but I can’t help it. “Spirits? Forgive me Madame for asking but have you? Of course not!” I say, whipping the tears from my eyes. I can’t believe she actually thought I was an alcoholic! “You can’t blame me for asking Mary…you’ve been uh, a little lost lately.” She says, staying serious the whole time. “You need not worry Madame, I am broken, and while it may not be fixable, I am in no danger of any sort of illegal substance.” I say getting up from my chair, ending our discussion with this movement. “I’ll see you tomorrow Mademoiselle Thorn. Okay, à demain!” She calls out after me. Happy to be free of my awkward discussion with Madame Bouchard, I return to the tranquility and order of my room. When I walk in though, I am surprised to see that Claire, Elizabeth and Jessica are all sitting on Jessica’s bed eating their lunch. “Oh, I didn’t know you guys would be in here.” I say walking past them to sit on my own bed. “Wow,” Elizabeth exclaims quite dramatically, “Is Mary Thorn talking to us?” She says, confusing me. Why wouldn’t I be talking to them? “What are you talking about Mary?” Claire then come in, “We’ve been eating in here every lunch for the past three months while you
stayed there on your bed reading, ignoring us whenever we would talk to you.” She says, and I immediately feel guilty. “I have?” I ask. And they all nod their heads, except Elizabeth who snaps: “Yes!” It’s natural for Elizabeth to be more hurt of course. We are the closest of the group…or used to be anyway. “I..I’m sorry…I hadn’t realized.” I start to apologize. “You haven’t been realizing anything!” Elizabeth retorts, luckily Claire comes over and gives me a hug. “Don’t apologize…we’re just glad to have you back.” She says, and I return the embrace. “Yes,” Jessica speaks for the first time, “You’ve been out of it.” “Sorry… What have I missed?” I ask hoping this will be the time that Elizabeth will start to warm up to me again. It is. “Miss’s Franklin has set the date for my party…she’s going to send out the invitations in a week.” She says and I hug her. “Oh Eli, that’s wonderful! You shall be the sensation of the season!” I say and she smiles. My charm has worked. “My aunt has moved into my house to help out with the family.” Jessica says. “That must be lovely having her there now.” I say earning a smile from Jessica now. I then turn to Claire…but she stays silent. “Don’t tell me you haven’t any news for me Claire!” I say, teasing her. “I do…it’s just….I don’t know if I should say.” She chokes out. “Don’t be ridiculous, go on luv, tell me.” I encourage her, but she remains reculant to share with me. “It’s mister Tigers….he’s been writing me, and I’ve been writing back…” She says, and I realize why she didn’t want to talk about it…she didn’t want her romance to remind me of him. The one who’s name and face I’ve been trying to forget…the one who left me without word…the one I love. “Don’t be ridiculous Claire. That’s great news; you should never be frightened to share such things with me!” I say as enthusiastically as I can, forcing a smile. “I think I’d better go get a drink,” I then say walking towards the door. “My throat’s a little dry.” And then I am out. Yes, I am in desperate need of water. My breath is coming out harder now. The hole is back. Blast him! What I would give to forget altogether. What heaven that would be! But I cannot return to my previous state…my friends would never forgive me (though I hadn’t even noticed I was doing it then.) Lord, what am I going to do?
I walk down the stairs about to make my way into the kitchen when I hear voices…two of them, coming from Mrs. Trenchfield’s office. Seeing how I am back to normal, of course curiosity got the best of me and I step closer to the door to listen. “Oh yes,” It is Anne’s Voice; “I got me a letter meself. Telling me of Mister Benet’s departure. He says he’s to get married and move away.” “Yes, I would imagine all or letters said the same thing Anne,” Mrs. Trenchfield is the one speaking now. “I gave my reply, telling him that we shall announce this news to the girls when he’s settled.” She then says. “Good idea. I reckon’ I’ll miss the lad more than I already do. I still remember when he’d visit us ‘ere, to come help with things and such. Such a nice lad…” Anne’s voice trails off as I am walking away. Getting married? Is this why he never wrote back? Why he never paid a call, why he wished me away. He never loved me…he loved someone else entirely. And now he was getting married. The hole is bigger than ever this time. I am chilled and wrap my arms around myself as if that could keep me from falling apart. •••
There are so many things I want to say to that man. So many things I’d like to do to him…unfortunately most of those things result in me going to prison. I’ve not the patience or the spirit to take anymore of this none cense…and yet it is all that my mind revolves around. My friends never even mention his name anymore, because they know it shall upset me. Although I have over heard Elizabeth speaking to Jessica of her cousin’s wedding. She made sure that I was nowhere near when she said all of this, but I heard anyway… The day has ended and I find myself in my room, like always, trying to find something other than my bad luck to focus on… unfortunately the only thing I could think of was Miss Donalie’s project. So Miss Donalie’s obsession with poetry has not ceased yet. After weeks of neglecting drawing, painting, and other types of colored art, we have been studying poetry for some time. And now….it is our turn. I have to say, I’ve no poetic talents at all. And it doesn’t help that all my inspiration for anything has left me…luckily my lack of inspiration is my inspiration. I quickly grab my diary to start a draft. As soon as my pen hits the paper, the words start flowing out— Not only is it my poetry project, but my journal entry for today. Nothing can describe my current state better than these words… •
The Weeks are Passing dull and Slow. I’m stunned But why? I Do not Know.
My Memory Is fading more And more. To ease The pain. To Settle the Score.
I Lie here Asleep. Too Tired to weep. My gaze is Dim, my Heart is Weak
Can’t BreathFeel StrainedBody NumbHeart PainedBlack OutLife FadingGiving UpYetStill Waiting…
I must admit that letting it all out feels a lot better. I don’t know what to do with myself, I suppose wallowing in my own misery is an option, but I’ve been doing it for too long now. My friends miss me, and I’m getting strange responses from my teachers. The next thing you know I’ll have doctors dragging me away to the asylum. There is no way I am giving up on life because of one little detour. My writing has helped me realize that Jessica was right…I am like a zombie. Although not dangerous in the least, I walk around like the living dead. It’s rather pathetic when you think about it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be that girl. And I shall keep that promises starting now. I shall love without losing myself. I’ve been a real drag these couple of weeks. But I shall change things for the sake of those around me…for my friends, for my family, for myself. •••
Dear diary, My grandmother has planned a visit leading into a trip…to where, I have no clue…she says it’s a surprise. The reason for the trip was also a surprise for me. My grandmother apparently has been searching for a suitable suitor for me, since I shall not have anyone to throw my coming out party. Anyway, as you can imagine, I am dreading this trip to meet my new suitor with every inch of my body. Knowing my grandmother’s perfect idea of a man for me he shall be completely boring, self obsessed and RICH. I don’t want to marry anyone… I fell before so now why bother?
It has arrived. The day that my grandmother comes to fetch me is here. I surprise trip to meet my possible future husband. Now, as is normal, I’ve put a lot of thought into this particular meet. And while at first I was completely against the whole thing, but after going over and
over in my head the different possibilities of this new relationship…it may not be so bad. Maybe my grandmother actually found someone very suitable for me after all. Maybe what I thought was useless advice from my mother was really great advice after all. Love grows…give it time. That advice could be the answer to all my problems. I am never going to get ahead in life without trying. But the real mystery is not who my new suitor is…it’s where I am meeting him. The only thing I know is that it isn’t here in London, so the man I am meeting isn’t from around here…which is a huge plus. If we get married, we’d live in his town or country, I’m not entirely sure just how far away he lives. Thinking about that helps me forget my fear and pain. After everything that has happened, I am still pained. Though now I am changed…in so many ways. I am stronger and weaker at the same time; forgetfulness is my friend…love: the enemy. Writing is my new sanctuary and appreciation has taken root in me. Yes―so many changes, yet still the same. I yawn as I make my way to Elizabeth and Jessica’s room. Claire had already left before me and I am to meet them in there. Since the last time, they haven’t really complained about my behavior, apparently I’ve been doing a lot better. Hopefully it lasts long enough for me to meet my new suitor later. How embarrassing it would be for me to break down in front of someone who I may have to live the rest of my life with. Well, if he decides he doesn’t fancy me, he most likely will not propose at all. If I want to turn my life around and please my family once and for all, I shall have to try. Obviously anything I want or hope for doesn’t happen. But I have always believed that everything happens for my reason. A new path is being placed ahead of me, now all I have to do is accept it and follow. I may not have chosen this path myself…but in the long run I’m sure it shall be worth it. Or so I hope. I open the door to my friend’s room. Jessica and Elizabeth are helping Claire pick out a gown. “What’s going on?” I ask while making my way over to Elizabeth’s bed. Out of all the beds here at Smith’s, Elizabeth definitely has the most comfortable. “Helping Claire pick out an outfit for her tea with Mister Tigers.” Jessica says cheerfully. I had forgotten the date…Valentines Day. I hang my head at the thought. How appropriate it was for my grandmother to schedule my meeting with my new suitor today.
“What’s wrong Mary?” Elizabeth asks carefully. “Valentines day…” I say in a hollow tone, “They should kill the guy who invented this useless holiday.” “They did, they cut his head off.” Elizabeth says, and I don’t answer. “I happen to be excited.” Claire says, bringing the attention back to her. “Oh, I’m sorry Claire. I didn’t mean…of course you are excited, I am very happy for you as well. I’m sure you and Mr. Tigers will have a splendid time.” I comment, jumping off Elizabeth’s bed to join my friends in front of Jessica’s bed where Claire has placed her best gowns for us to choose from. “You should wear this one.” I say, picking up a light pink gown in my hands. “I agree.” Elizabeth says, taking in from me and placing it in front of Claire. “It’s perfect!” Jessica exclaims. She’s right. It’s the perfect dress for Claire. Claire looks at her reflection in the mirror and her face lights up. Obviously she agrees with our choice. And with good reason. She shall take Jessie’s breath away in this. Elizabeth walks to the door when we hear someone knocking. When she opens it, we find Anne. “Miss Milton, Mr. and Mrs. Tigers have arrived for ye with their son. I’ll escort ye down in a moment.” She says, and Claire scurries behind the screen to put on her dress. “Thank you Anne, she will be out in a second.” Elizabeth says, closing the door. Anne puts her hand out to stop it. “I’m not finished. It’s rude to shut a door in me face ye ken.” She says while proudly stepping into the room. “Miss Thorn.” She says, and I jump up at the sound of my name. “Yes Anne?” I ask coming closer. “Yer grandmother has arrived and asked me to escort her to yer room. She’s waitin’ for ye righ’ now.” Oh no. Not yet. I’m not ready! “Alright Anne, I’ll make my way over in a second. I’m just going to say good bye to my friends.” I say, and Elizabeth immediately places her hand on the door as a hint. “Thank you Anne, they’ll be out in a minute.” Elizabeth says with exaggeration. Anne walks out muttering to herself. It wasn’t all clear to me, but I heard something about an ‘ungrateful spoiled brat’. Lucky for Anne, Elizabeth chose to ignore her comment and turned to me. “Are you ready?” She asks me, taking my hands. “As ready as I’ll ever be I suppose.” And Elizabeth hugs me.
“This could be a good thing Mary. An exciting new beginning; think of this as a good thing. You really are lucky you know.” She says and I pull away to face her. “Are you insane? Lucky?” I ask delirious. “Sure. You get to start a new adventure, it’s exciting!” She says with a spark in her eyes. One that I’ve seen so many times before—one that I admire. “I wish you could come with me.” I say, hugging her once more. “I know.” She says, “But you have to do this on your own. When you get back, we’ll talk all about it.” She says. And funny enough, her words make me feel better. “Thanks Eli.” I say simply and then we all turn around and watch Claire step out from the screen. “Whooohooo!” Elizabeth and Jessica shout in unison. I jump in front of Claire to my knees. “Take me now!” I say, and she pushes my head away. “Be serious guys. This is important!” She whines. “We are!” Jessica says circling her. “Jessie won’t be able to take his eyes off you Claire.” “You think?” She asks before twirling around. “Positive.” Elizabeth adds, “You look gorgeous.” Claire smiles at this and we all hug her. “You’re going to have a great time.” I say to her. And we all lead her out the door. “It’s about time!” Anne says pulling Claire by the arm. “Can’t have guests waitin’ forever.” She says leading her down the hallway. “Bye Claire!” I shout. “Good luck!” That’s Jessica. “Have a great time!” Elizabeth finally yells. And before I know it, Elizabeth and Jessica are pushing me down the hallway. “Can’t keep your grandmother waiting now can we?” Elizabeth says sneakily. I sigh in defeat and let them lead me back into my own room. Once we get there they both hug me the same way we did Claire. “You’re going to be fine.” Elizabeth says encouragingly. “We’ll be here when you get back.” Jessica says, and I take a deep breath before walking into my room. “Goodness child. Where have you been?” My grandmother says, rising from off my bed. “With my friends.” I answer refraining from further explanation. “Anyhow, I’ve brought you a present before we leave.” She says smiling. Goodness, I can only imagine. “Well, don’t you want to see what it is?” She asks, picking up the box that was placed in front of her.
“Sure.” I say. “I figured you could use it. A good present for Valentines day.” She says as I open the box. I am entirely surprised to find that she has bought be another gown. It is gorgeous of course. Despite my grandmothers lack of taste in many things…her taste in gown is impeccable. “You should look fairly suitable during this meeting.” She then says, watching me examine the dress. “Thanks Grandma, you didn’t have to do this.” I say sincerely. “But about this meeting…I mean, I really think I should at least know the man’s name; not to mention where we’re going.” I say, and my grandmother lets out a deep breath. “I suppose it would only be faire…I had hoped to keep it a surprised, but oh well. One of his names is William, and you are meeting in Paris, so hurry up and get your dress on, we must leave if we want to arrive before dusk.” She says pushing me to my screen. “One of his names is William?” I ask while changing. “Men these days have many names Mary. And William seems to be his most professional.” She explains. “And, were going to Paris? Are you serious?” I ask now excited. I’ve always wanted to travel…and now I finally get to make it out of London! “I’m very serious Mary. It is Valentines Day, and Paris is known to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. I want everything to be perfect when you meet him. Your entire future relies on this meeting after all.” She says, adding to the butterflies in my stomach. Way to take away the pressure. I think to myself with heavy sarcasm. “You’re being so thoughtful grandmother. I really appreciate everything you’re doing for me.” “Of course dear, it’s my pleasure.” She says, and I have to wonder why the sudden turn around. I mean, she never thought me good for anything, and she never offered help. I am grateful for her newfound soft side towards me. It may be to help our family stay successful, but I am nevertheless happy for it. I step out of the screen and stand in front of my grandmother. “You look lovely.” She says smiling, and I move to stand in front of my mirror. The dress really was beautiful. It is silver silk and tapered. It went down past my feet and dragged a bit behind. It is gorgeous. It wasn’t strapless like much of my other fancy gowns, but it had two thick sparkled straps adding to its elegance. I felt confident in this dress. Even confident enough to go off to Paris to meet my possible future husband. After I am dressed and my grandmother does my hair to her liking, we walk out of the school and into our carriage to be on our way to Paris.
It is still morning, and so we shouldn’t be there too late. My anticipation for our arrival is almost too much for me to take. Not so much for ‘William’ but more so for Paris. I make sure to keep thoughts of him out of my head. It would only ruin this whole day to think about him. Maybe by the end of the day I shall be able to say his name without flinching. But for now, we shall keep him at bay as much as I can. My grandmother tries to make small talk some of the time, asking many questions about me. “How’s school?” “Learn anything new?” “What about Victoria, how is she since the incident?” She asks. The truth is, Victoria Brooks and her friends have been great. At least to us. They haven’t even glanced our way since she was found out. Though I’ve noticed their constant rudeness towards everyone else. I guess some people will never change. All I tell my grandmother though, is that I don’t see her often, except for in class, and even there I don’t pay attention to her. This is pretty much the truth anyway. I look out the window as I think about how things have changed at Smith’s. The people for one: Miss Logan. Ever since she met Sir Laird she’s been sunshine in human form. Before it was rare to see her smile twice in a day, and now it’s rare to see her frown twice in a day. My friends haven’t really changed much, well, Elizabeth is still as stubborn and lovely as ever; but somehow she’s manage to prove herself a stronger leader. And while I’m still in the process of getting to know Jessica, she’s becoming more adventurous with each passing day. But Claire, Claire has changed much. Gradually, mind you, but she is getting there. Since Jessie Tigers and Victoria, not to mention the help of her friends, she’s become much more confident. And I am proud of her for it, as I’m sure we all are. As I am coming to these conclusions, I embrace the wonderful scene from out my window. I take in the snow covered trees and houses looking inviting and making it a wonderful way to pass the time—which surprisingly is passing pretty quick considering the circumstances. To pass the rest of the time, I either read the book that I had brought, stare out the window…or talk to my grandmother and sometimes even our driver. After a while, we stop so that our horse can rest and eat, and the driver comes into the back of the carriage to see us with a box of chocolate in his hands. I’ve never been able to resist chocolates.
“There you are love. Help yourselves while I go out and feed the horse.” Our driver offers before stepping back out of the carriage. I waste no time and grab about five at once, which self-consciously I now that he meant ‘help yourselves,’ he really meant ‘take one or two’; like a real lady would probably limit herself to anyway. But my greed takes the best of me. My grandmother quickly slaps my hand, causing me to drop all the chocolates back into the box. “Idle hands are the devils handy work Mary.” She warns, and I reach my hand back into the box, only taking out one this time. I haven’t eaten all day since we left straight in the morning, and my stomach has been making odd noises the whole trip so far. The chocolates are tempting, but I suppose it shall have to do for me to behave properly… What a shame. Food shall have to wait for now. Not long after, we reach the train station and seat ourselves in a more comfortable fashion. For the rest of the ride up, I was basically in the clouds. Playing out different situations of what’s to come. None are ever the same, or even similar, and none were even close for what was about to happen. It’s been hours since the moment we left for our destination and the sun is beginning to set. We get out of the train, to find another carriage awaiting us already. It takes us far into Paris, and I am consumed by the beautiful sight the whole time. When I step out of the carriage, I am completely shocked at the place where I am to meet William. Of all the grand places in Paris, surely this is the most grand. I find myself standing in front of the Eiffel tower. I take in this sight with an open mouth. Suddenly this meeting seems harmless, and even, as Elizabeth suggested, exciting. My grandmother steps out of the carriage after me, as awe struck as I am. It is much bigger than I thought; I have to crane my neck far back to take in the whole of it. I then take a look at my other surroundings. And although I’ve not much to compare it too, I could imagine Paris being one of the most beautiful cities in the world…I am quite lucky to witness it. “Beautiful isn’t it?” My grandmother says coming beside me. “Oh yes.” I say, almost breathless. I was a little worried with my grandmother being my chaperone for this…I thought she would make it awkward, especially since I don’t know
this ‘William’…but now, after our bonding time in the carriage, I realize it may not be so bad. A table for is set up in front of us, with a couple of chairs seated in sight. The table is set with romantic candles, and a bouquet of roses. “Your suitor shall be here any moment with his chaperone.” My grandmother says to me, “Those two seats over there,” She points to the ones I’ve just noticed, “They are for the chaperones, so you may have your privacy, but we can still keep an eye on you.” She says, and starts walking away. I look at the food placed on the table. Not very much, I note, taking in the sight of the small meal. One thing’s for sure…I’ll be eating like a starving elephant tomorrow. I turn around at the sound of horse hooves and a carriage. My heart starts to pound in nervousness and anxiety. I am suddenly aware of the reason I am here. The carriage comes to a stop, and a man walks out. He is very old, and I know he is not meant to be my suitor. This must be the other chaperone. After him comes a far younger man then the first. A man no more than two years older from me steps out. He is incredibly handsome with his auburn hair and noticeably sparkling blue eyes. I almost fall to my knees at the sight of him. Thomas. He walks over to me, and I try to hide my tear filled eyes. Is this real, is it really happening? So many nights I have hoped and prayed for the day I would see Thomas again. It figures that the day I least expect him is the day he shows up. He comes over and takes me in his arms, holding me tight, as I do to him. “Mary,” He whispers my name, making it sound like heaven. “Oh how I’ve missed you Mary.” He says, stroking my hair. I wait until the tears are gone to pull away to face him. My next move is also one that I’ve hoped I’d get the chance to do if ever I were to see him again. I slap him across the face. His hands instinctively move to the place where I hit. “I guess I deserve that.” He says, looking down. “Humph,” I retort, “And more.” I say, and he suddenly looks up, smiling. “I really have missed you Mary.” He then says, lifting my chin, forcing me to face him. He wipes the one tear left, hanging off my cheek.
“We should sit down and eat.” I say turning to the tables, “We obviously have a lot to clear up and I am starving.” We both sit down and begin to dine. “What would you like to ask first?” He asks me, catching me forcing a handful of food in my mouth. I wait until I am finished chewing before answering. “As much as I would love to bombard you with questions about why you never contacted me, forcing me to believe a bunch of different things…I have two more curios questions burning at the tip of my tongue.” “Go on.” He pushes. “One-Whose idea was it for all this?” I ask, indicating the table and the tower. He smiles more beautifully then ever before, “Me of course.” He says. “You’ve got quite the romantic side.” I note, taking another delicious bite of my food. “Your other question?” he presses and I waste no time to ask him. “Why did my grandmother tell my that one of the names of the man I was meeting was William?” I ask. “William is my middle name.” He says a matter-of-factly. So it was you all along…” I say in a small voice, a little dazed. “You have more questions of course.” He says, obviously eager to change the subject; which suits me…he’s got a lot of explaining to do. “Why didn’t you write back?” I ask sternly, staring into his eyes, trying to stay mad. “I wanted to surprise you.” He says. “You couldn’t have surprised me like a week later? Thomas, you waited over a month!” I say loudly. “You think all of this took a week planning?” he asks, and I give up. He was right. This probably did take quite a while to arrange. “You were supposed to get married…what happened there?” I ask, remembering the conversation I heard Mrs.Trenchfield and Anne speaking of Mister Benet getting married. “I thought we were past that shock Mary. You were supposed to get married as well as you recall.” He says in a most annoying voice. “I’m not talking about Victoria.” I say, and I can see by his confused face that I lost him. “Mary, what are you talking about?” He demands. “I over heard our head mistress and one of our maids, they were saying that Mister Benet was getting married. And how they remembered how he’d always come help out and visit from time to time...And that you were, moving away.” I say in a small voice. And to my embarrassment Thomas throws his head back and laughs historically. “My Brother!” He exclaims through tears.
“What?” I ask confused. “Frank, he’s moving to America…he’s the one getting married.” He says, settling down a little. “But you said he was leaving for the service in a couple of weeks the last time we talked about him.” I say and Thomas shakes his head, and then stares at me directly, intensely. “Plans change when you fall in love.” He says, suddenly serious. All those weeks of worry and depression…Thomas never left, he never got married…he never forgot about me. He’s here and he always was. I’ve never been happier in my life. He stands up, takes his chair and places it in front of the front of the table, and facing the Eiffel tower. He then helps me from my chair and places it beside his before we each resume to our seats. The sun is setting behind the tower…and I believe that I shall never witness a more beautiful and romantic scene. Thomas takes my hands in his, bends down so that we are face to face, and whispers: “I love you Mary.” My heart just about melted in my chest right there. Okay, a little dramatic, but you should be used to that by now. “I love you too.” I am finally able to spit out after I bring my smile down to a minimum. “And,” he then says, smiling brilliantly, “I have a present for you.” He says, handing me a small black box. I open it with great anticipation, and when I see what it is…tears fill my eyes once more. The key. “I thought you would like it.” He says, noticing the tears in my eyes. “I’m not crying because I hate it Thomas. I am crying because I love it.” I say and he embraces me in his arms again laughing a little. “Mary, you are utterly absurd.” He says softly before pulling away. “What?” I ask, watching him bend over to pick up a wrapped box. The box is fairly big, and I can only wonder what it holds. “What’s that?” I ask him. “The other part of your present.” He says, holding it out for me to take. I rip off the pretty wrapping to find in my hands a heavy beautifully designed box, locked. Thomas lifts my hand that holds the key. “You finally get to see what it opens.” He says. I take the key and place it into the lock, slowly opening the large box. As I do so Thomas gets down in front of me…kneeling on one knee.
As you might have guessed, in the box held a beautiful engagement ring. “Will you marry me, Miss Mary Olivia Thorn?” He asks, and I leap down and hug him. “Of course I will.” I say and he kisses me. We break our kiss at the sound of a loud whistle. When we look to see where it was coming from we see my grandmother and his chaperone standing up with crossed arms. Obviously this was not suitable behavior. As if I didn’t already know that. We seat ourselves back in our chairs, this time with his strong arm around me, and a new ring on my finger. “We’ve been through so much to get here.” He says in his raspy voice. “Mmhmm,” I agree, “One day they shall right a great story of us.” I say, and he laughs. “Really? And what shall it be called?” He inquires and I pull myself tighter to him. “Our story.” I say, and he kisses me again. •••
2 years later
Miss’s Trenchfield is still the lovely head mistress of Smith’s private Academy for young ladies. The year that Mary’s class graduated, Mrs.Trenchfield received a record breaking amount of new applications. Smith’s Academy
is now back on top; once again named one of the most popular and classy schools in London, as it shall be for many years to come. Mrs. Trenchfield is very proud, and we are proud of her.
Miss Logan and Sir Laird
The summer following the proposal, Miss Logan (now known as Mrs. Laird) and Sir Laird had gotten married. Both Smith’s Academy and Briar Academy were invited, making it a full wedding if you counted their families as well. They now live happily together in a country estate; though Miss Logan remains librarian of the school.
Laura Markham unfortunately did not marry into a rich family. She still lives in London with her husband and three kids. She and her old friends do not keep in touch, her role now is to stay at home and take care of her children while her husband is at work.
Meggie Potter did marry into a rich family. Her only mistake was that her husband caught her cheating on him frequently, with the new hired stable boy. And so her husband divorced her, telling all of her shameful behavior, and her family disowned her. She moved to Denver where she met her current husband, and they are now living happily together, while the husband is blissfully unaware of her past…he has yet to learn.
Jessica Wilson married an old duke, by request of her parents. A year after they got married, the duke had fallen ill and died. And so Jessica lives alone in their big estate in London with her only child.
Emily Thorn has been maturing into a person much like her older sister. She is continuing her practice of art, and is always excited at the visits of her sister. It is now Emily’s first year attending Smith’s private school, and she loves it.
Gavan and Marissa
They had their child, but decided not to have anymore after the first one. Gavan respects Mary now, and they are becoming closer, while Marissa still remains as distant and rude as always. Gavan and Marissa still remain together, despite the constant arguments, in their aristocrat house in London.
Victoria Brooks, much to everyone’s surprise, did not marry Mister Kingston. Instead, to get away from the accusing eyes following her everywhere she went, she moved to Scotland —where she married a rich Scot. And together they live quite unhappily.
Ben Kingston’s reputation was never ruined. He is a man, a man with power, and so he married a grateful aristocrat, with whom he
lives with in London. He is taking over his father’s business and is doing quite well for himself.
Is now happily married to Jessie Tigers. They married soon after Miss Logan and Sir Laird. They, of course, remained in London where Jessie has inherited all his family money, after has father’s recent tragic death. Claire and Jessie have decided to start a family now that they are completely secure.
Elizabeth did not marry Mister James Franklin, even though it was his mother who threw her coming out party…at the party Elizabeth met a French Viscounts son: Monsieur Félix LeClaire. They are now happily married, and live together in Paris. Elizabeth
and Marry visit each other frequently, and have stayed best friends.
Mary and Thomas
Had gotten married a month later in London, and they wasted no time to move to Paris themselves. For the first year of their marriage, Thomas had taken Mary traveling to any place in the world that she pleased. After that, they decided to settle down in their home; and they are now expecting their first child… And, as you would imagine…They lived happily ever after.
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